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Author Topic: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform  (Read 14391 times)
BrianDeLong
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« Reply #15 on: April 29, 2011, 07:23:37 PM »

When I tell people that I really like this topic I keep getting the same response: "that topic is boring". When pressed very few people can substantiate either this claim or many other criticisms of this topic.

Dear community members who may think this topic is boring: It conclusively is not. Take a look at the literature again and do a few Google searches on it. Our tax code has been written about extensively by academia, think tanks, hacks, quacks, and conspiracy theorists (if you're into that sort of thing).

If the question is "what would be fun to debate?!" you are missing the point. Debate ultimately will always result in "fun." Topics like taxation can provide a years worth of new strategies to defeat your opposition.

A year of debating this topic would produce  debater's who can eloquently and readily engage in issues of tax law. I would assume this skill would look quite impressive for future grad/law school applications. To even claim a moderate mastery of some of the literature on this topic could add for quite a boon in potential advocates for tax reform. At the very least you will know what's going on. Besides you can be the most pretensions person you know amongst your friends. What more would you want?

« Last Edit: April 29, 2011, 07:32:43 PM by BrianDeLong » Logged
max.o.archer
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« Reply #16 on: April 29, 2011, 07:58:09 PM »

Couple of things I can't wrap my head around after reading this thread:

1) How can this topic be read as both "screw corporations" and "promote american business?"  What's the internal link between revenue positive / revenue neutral tax policies and closing loopholes / "decreasing the overall tax rate on businesses"?  How does the aff claim to solve social and economic inequality under the proposed topic?

2) What is the "wider argumentative spectrum?"  Given that economy, competitiveness and offshoring were such a large focus of the paper, I'm hard pressed to see why this topic is different from ag and immigration - it just seems to use more fancy nuts and bolts (tax law) to access the same impacts.

I totally agree we should learn more about taxes, but how is this going to happen in each round on the topic?  How can advocates for the topic overcome the gut check crowd without initially confusing them more?  Gabe's analogy about starting with reasons why people immigrate instead of h1b was incredibly useful, but what's the analogous starting point for selling the topic / debate to newcomers? 

I agree we'll have fun debating any of the proposed topics.  I'm really not bashing the big picture "its good to debate taxes," but I am worried about a world where teams revert back to politics + commission cp or zizek cap bad given the uniquely complicated nature of the topic.  That, or tax acronyms be so confusing that I actually have to start voting for framework and nietzsche :-)

max
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gabemurillo
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« Reply #17 on: April 29, 2011, 09:26:05 PM »

How can this topic be read as both "screw corporations" and "promote american business?"  What's the internal link between revenue positive / revenue neutral tax policies and closing loopholes / "decreasing the overall tax rate on businesses"?  How does the aff claim to solve social and economic inequality under the proposed topic?

Screw Corporations: you can close loop holes and put that money into the government budget (revenue positive because it creates revenue for the government)

or

Promote American Business: you can close loopholes and put those savings towards lowering corporate tax rates (revenue neutral because it doesn't change the amount of revenue made by the government)

What is the "wider argumentative spectrum?"  Given that economy, competitiveness and offshoring were such a large focus of the paper, I'm hard pressed to see why this topic is different from ag and immigration - it just seems to use more fancy nuts and bolts (tax law) to access the same impacts.

When I say the wider argumentative spectrum I am referring to what I perceive as the ability of this topic to appeal to both the argumentative left and right (as overly generic as those labels are I think they are sufficient for this discussion). It is true that competitiveness, economy and offshoring debates will show up in a lot of topics. I think the answer is included in your question. This topic allows us an interesting internal link that, at least in my memory, we haven't debated before. I think its a mistake to downplay the importance of the educational benefits of debating the internal link level of advantages. Honestly I would rather hear debates about this new "fancy" internal link than another year of debates about the internal links that would be addressed on other topics. Tax law is different because on previous topics we've debated more about energy dependence, manufacturing, global leadership and trade. Ultimately the impact level of these arguments is inevitable, these style of advantages are a go to on any topic.

I totally agree we should learn more about taxes, but how is this going to happen in each round on the topic?  How can advocates for the topic overcome the gut check crowd without initially confusing them more?  Gabe's analogy about starting with reasons why people immigrate instead of h1b was incredibly useful, but what's the analogous starting point for selling the topic / debate to newcomers?

I don't have the gusto to claim that the educational benefits that could be gained from debating tax law will occur in every debate. I can't think of any topic that can realistically guarantee the most productive parts of the topic will be debated across the spectrum. However, tax law at least creates an incentive for a new type of research that should hopefully produce these educational benefits. A helpful analogy may be the courts topic. Personally I've always been a fan of law reviews, but I know a lot of people who stayed away from this large, arguable complicated, literature base until the courts topic when legal research became a requirement for a team to engage the topic. Now I'm sure there are mixed reviews of how enjoyable this "new" literature base was, but there cannot be an argument that the topic did not at least expose people to the law review as an excellent base for research.

As far as how can advocates overcome a gut check without initially confusing people this seems to beg the question of the educational benefit of debating a topic that we don't know about. Yes, there may be some "confusion" early in the topic, but this confusion can be remedied by researching the topic. I remember the first time I tried to delve into the literature base about how the WTO measures agricultural support and I was frustrated and confused, but continued research remedied my confusion and I learned a lot about this process. I don't think that this topic is asking us to take a leap of faith that eventually we will be able to understand this area of literature. In fact the thing I was most impressed about with this topic paper was its ability to prove that these concepts are in fact digestible.

How would I sell this topic to my JV and Novice debaters? This is what I've got so far, and as I write out this potential discussion I realize it appeals to the more leftist reading of the topic, but for my team that's the better sell:  
A) Start with a discussion of why we pay taxes. This can be branched off into many different discussions, ie the necessity of taxes for social services, infrastructure, helping the government run etc.
B) Ask the students how many of them pay taxes or have ever had to file taxes. This could branch off into a discussion of the frustration of paying high rates, the complications of filing taxes etc.
C) From there talk about how much money the major corporations make each year, followed by a discussion of how much those companies paid in taxes. From here some simple analogies can be drawn about the relative disparity between the percentage of income individuals pay for taxes versus the amount these corporations pay.  
D) I'd then probably have a rant about why they should be upset about the relative lack of knowledge and transparency about these tax codes which could create a good transition into a slightly more detailed discussion of the different types of taxe codes / loopholes the topic covered.

I'll admit this topic is not the easy pick for coaches. Selling this topic will take a dedicated approach, and quite frankly I know if this topic wins I am going to need to learn a lot about something I don't know very much about. Maybe its the dork in me, but this prospect is actually part of what really excites me about this topic.

all the best
gabe
« Last Edit: April 29, 2011, 09:41:15 PM by gabemurillo » Logged
Seth Gannon
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« Reply #18 on: April 30, 2011, 09:33:23 AM »

“The thing I was most impressed about with this topic paper was its ability to prove that these concepts are in fact digestible.” – Murillo

“You'll notice most of the cards in the topic paper are from law reviews and other peer reviewed sources.” – Gordon

“Dear community members who may think this topic is boring: It conclusively is not. Take a look at the literature again and do a few Google searches on it.” – DeLong

These sentiments are exactly right.

Perhaps my concern here is fictional, a straw person—I hope so—but I hate to think that anyone would reject this topic out of hand, without first digging into the controversy paper and this CEDA Forums discussion.

Here we have a deep, longstanding controversy with clear policy proposals in competition with one another, carrying various advantages and disadvantages that speak to fundamental philosophical, political, and economic directions of the American government. That’s a hell of a debate topic!
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jgonzo
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« Reply #19 on: April 30, 2011, 03:37:03 PM »

A funny thought - I think that this is a surprisingly easy topic to sell to novice/JV/outsider types. I dunno, it just seems like it's one of the core disagreements in politics. At a minimum, it seems every bit as easy to wave the flag for tax policy as it would be for any number of treaties that are unlikely to be so much as mentioned in the news, much less debated in Congress during the topic year.

I realize it requires a rather massive leap of faith on our part, but maybe we could actually kinda debate a topic (and a resolution) that is publicly salient? Is being actively debated while we're debating it (and not just by blogs and think-tanks)? Could we just try it once, you know, just to see what it's like?

Best,

gonzo.
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max.o.archer
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« Reply #20 on: April 30, 2011, 06:00:39 PM »

Timeliness is an advantage to every topic choice on the ballot - Congress will debate lots of cool stuff this year, practically everything's a core disagreement in politics these days, given the partisan divisions in the public sphere.  It is easy to wave the flag for tax policy, but I'm not convinced in a debate or educational sense, that's a reason to prefer it over the other 8 options on the ballot.

Gabe's post was EXTREMELY helpful in sorting out both the different readings of this topic area and an extremely effective persuasive strategy that can be applied to novices / jvers (thanks again!).  But I'd like to extend my #3 argument - the uniquely technical nature of this topic area incentivizes ubergenerics for both right and left negative debaters. 

We seem to agree the terminal impacts will be the same, no matter which controversy is chosen.  My concern still remains that, given the tendency of the topic committee to further narrow / complicate seemingly awesome controversies in the wording process, the possibility for cool, education debates is uniquely constrained in this specific topic area.  If the terminal impacts are going to be the same, but the internal links are only going to get more complicated, it seems a lot easier to read impact defense and counterplan/politics or K the case rather than engaging those nuts and bolts. 

To me, this is a reason to prefer almost any other topic area, because at least with the foreign aid trifecta (India, Failed States, MENA), the internal link to all advantages is going to be aid, no matter what the specific country, so you how explain how your Development K accesses the internal link to the case.  Or with treaties, you know the internal link is almost always going to be ratification, and you know how to explain how your CEA counterplan interacts with that.  Not saying these arguments are more cool than taxes, but rather making the defensive claim that the technical nature of the tax topic encourages debaters to side-step the central issues of tax law in favor of the path of least resistance / debater-friendly arguments.  Yes some first round teams will debate the mechanics of the case, but for the rest of us, it seems will be zizek, politics, etc. will be even more, not less, prevalent in comparison to the other choices on the ballot.

Again, not blasting the idea of a tax topic, but more criticizing the notion that it is a good debate resolution for the entire community.  You can say "debate's tough, learn it" all you want, but at the end of the day, many/most will cut politics and zizek and call it a day instead of getting deep in the revenue neutral vs. revenue positive mechanics.

max
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Malgor
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« Reply #21 on: April 30, 2011, 06:43:49 PM »

Timeliness is an advantage to every topic choice on the ballot - Congress will debate lots of cool stuff this year, practically everything's a core disagreement in politics these days, given the partisan divisions in the public sphere.  It is easy to wave the flag for tax policy, but I'm not convinced in a debate or educational sense, that's a reason to prefer it over the other 8 options on the ballot.

Gabe's post was EXTREMELY helpful in sorting out both the different readings of this topic area and an extremely effective persuasive strategy that can be applied to novices / jvers (thanks again!).  But I'd like to extend my #3 argument - the uniquely technical nature of this topic area incentivizes ubergenerics for both right and left negative debaters.  

We seem to agree the terminal impacts will be the same, no matter which controversy is chosen.  My concern still remains that, given the tendency of the topic committee to further narrow / complicate seemingly awesome controversies in the wording process, the possibility for cool, education debates is uniquely constrained in this specific topic area.  If the terminal impacts are going to be the same, but the internal links are only going to get more complicated, it seems a lot easier to read impact defense and counterplan/politics or K the case rather than engaging those nuts and bolts.  

To me, this is a reason to prefer almost any other topic area, because at least with the foreign aid trifecta (India, Failed States, MENA), the internal link to all advantages is going to be aid, no matter what the specific country, so you how explain how your Development K accesses the internal link to the case.  Or with treaties, you know the internal link is almost always going to be ratification, and you know how to explain how your CEA counterplan interacts with that.  Not saying these arguments are more cool than taxes, but rather making the defensive claim that the technical nature of the tax topic encourages debaters to side-step the central issues of tax law in favor of the path of least resistance / debater-friendly arguments.  Yes some first round teams will debate the mechanics of the case, but for the rest of us, it seems will be zizek, politics, etc. will be even more, not less, prevalent in comparison to the other choices on the ballot.

Again, not blasting the idea of a tax topic, but more criticizing the notion that it is a good debate resolution for the entire community.  You can say "debate's tough, learn it" all you want, but at the end of the day, many/most will cut politics and zizek and call it a day instead of getting deep in the revenue neutral vs. revenue positive mechanics.

max


There are two lines of thought going on here.  First, that there aren't any unique impact areas on this topic, just internal links. There are three impact areas in this topic that are unique.  Deficits, social spending, economic inequality.  Deficits alone lends itself to a lot of interesting impact scenarios, foreign and domestic.  Social spending will be interesting because it's going to become such a centerpiece of the elections and future budget battles.  Economic inequality is also another major part of tax policy that other topics don't offer us.  
 

Second, that the topic is so technical debaters will only run generic arguments.  One of the main things others have noticed is that the 'technical nature' of the topic is vastly overblown.  I don't find anything overly technical in any of the literature, and it's one of the reasons i provided multiple cards on each area in the topic area. If there is a part of the paper you think lends itself to overly technical debates, please point it out so we can discuss. the internal links won't be overly technical, they'll just be different, another unique benefit of this area.

A friend of mine explained this in a way i thought was helpful:  Filing your taxes is hard, debating about tax policy is not.  People are saying the topic is overly technical but providing no substantive examples.  

Debaters frequently run critical arguments and cp/da strategies that are quite technical.  Most kritiks involve explaining graduate level literature.  To suggest that they can't keep up with articles from think tanks and law reviews doesn't jive with experience i've had even at the JV/novice level.  Hell my novice debaters loved to runt he Cap K.  Tax policy is no more complicated than arguing how agency duties trade off with one another in the executive branch, thus causing X impact.

Also, assuming they do decide to run generics, I've already pointed out that the topic specific generic counterplans on this topic are uniquely educational and lie at the heart of the controversy.  I am confident that any debater, with practice, can comfortably run the "cut taxes" cp and explain how it solves the economy and helps businesses; or can run a disad that says tax loopholes are good for certain industries in the economy.  Generics are inevitable on any topic, as i've pointed out in another post this topic gives you better generics.

I'm not buying any of your doomsday scenarios where debaters refuse to debate the topic.  The same debaters will go generic that always do.  Some teams run politics no matter what etc.  To say that it's a reason to rank this topic dead last as you suggest is an impact claim so over-hyped it could only come from someone in debate.

I always get a bit upset when people suggest that we should avoid discussing salient political issues because they might get complicated.  One of the main attractions of debate is that it shows people, through argument and persuasion, that these issues aren't too technical and are certainly worth engaging.  As teachers and coaches, this should never be the way we assess our topics.



« Last Edit: April 30, 2011, 06:45:48 PM by Malgor » Logged
Malgor
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« Reply #22 on: April 30, 2011, 06:58:01 PM »

I'd also like to add that there are still many important things to be talked about and hashed out.  the typical discussion on other topic papers of disad/advantage/plan uniqueness, mechanisms, other areas to add etc hasn't been going on with this topic. since i wrote the paper, my assumption is there are several voids in thinking that need to be filled.
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max.o.archer
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« Reply #23 on: April 30, 2011, 07:16:45 PM »

Fair enough - thanks for addressing my thoughts on generics.  It may very well be doomsaying, but I thought it would be good to have some of the detractors thoughts on record (switch-side debate good, yo!).  Looking forward to hearing more about the mechanics of the topic in the lead up to the vote.

max
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gabemurillo
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« Reply #24 on: April 30, 2011, 07:35:54 PM »

I will try not to be too repetitive with Malcolm's post,

My concern still remains that, given the tendency of the topic committee to further narrow / complicate seemingly awesome controversies in the wording process, the possibility for cool, education debates is uniquely constrained in this specific topic area.

I would argue that the scare tactic of "the topic committee always screws things up" is a warrant to support the tax policy topic area over most other areas. I want to start by clarifying that my position on this question is not out of disrespect for the topic committee it is a thankless job that is very difficult to carry out. That being said, if you read through the forums for almost all the other topics there is a trend that central questions (potential mechanisms, what areas of the controversy will be in the final resolution etc) are responded to with "this is a question for the topic committee". The tax policy controversy paper does the best job of providing the topic committee with more definitive guidance. So before people just assume that the topic committee will "ruin" the educational value of this topic I'd like to know how you believe the topic committee will do this within the constraints of what is presented in the topic, and what part of the other topics provide the same level of guidance as the tax policy paper.

zizek, politics, etc. will be even more, not less, prevalent in comparison to the other choices on the ballot
 
A) No one is conceding that this topic is confusing or complicated. In fact multiple people have made arguments why this topic IS NOT confusing or complicated, and is surprisingly easy to understand. I admit some of my posts may have been a bit too soft on this question, so let me have a moment of meta-clarification. I do not think this topic is too confusing for people to understand, nor do I think it produces an incentive to run from the nitty gritty of the topic. I have been deploying an "even-if" style of argument, even if you think this topic is confusing that only proves its educationally beneficial, while also attempting to advance the argument that the complicated nature of this topic has been overblown.  

B) The idea that overly generic negative strategies are unique to this topic is in my opinion a none starter. I bet a lot of policy debates on any of the foreign policy topics will end in a comparison of the aff versus an international actor cp and politics. As far as K debates, what parts of other topics creates a disincentive for teams to run Zizek, especially if the mechanism for all of those topics is foreign aid? I also think there are two "turns" that have not been responded to

1) Topic specific counterplans - malcolm has covered this extensively already but all of the topic specific counterplans seem much better on the tax policy topic, and it has better built in answers to the overly generic counterplans that are encouraged on other topics.

2) The Screw Corporations angle to this topic creates a disincentive for overly generic cap k's because the affirmative has a pretty tight permutation / link turn strategy which would create an incentive for teams to increase the specificity of their criticism.

To me, this is a reason to prefer almost any other topic area, because at least with the foreign aid trifecta (India, Failed States, MENA), the internal link to all advantages is going to be aid, no matter what the specific country, so you how explain how your Development K accesses the internal link to the case

Seems to take out the uniqueness to your argument, what is the educational benefit to the Development K over Zizek? In a way this argument seems to be saying "overly generic strategies will be even better on the foreign aid trifecta because those arguments will turn the only internal link to advantages" which seems to prove strategically those topics all create an incentive for overly generic arguments.

all the best
gabe



 
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Malgor
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« Reply #25 on: May 04, 2011, 04:34:27 PM »

This is a response to a post Galloway made in the India topic thread.  Someone else mentioned why taxes are more salient, I believe it was Taylor.  Hester's response is quite good.  I also made a post last week explaining why I think this topic is particularly timely:

http://www.cedadebate.org/forum/index.php?topic=2396.0



First, Malgor's paper is narrow even within the corporate taxation literature.  I researched corporate tax reform as a large politics disad for both districts and the NDT.  I found a great deal of literature advocating that the USFG move its taxation rates on corporations from the approximately 35% taxation rate to 20% paid by most other OECD countries.  In addition to that, people advocated closing loopholes to make the overall package revenue neutral. 

I found very little literature saying "we should just close the loopholes."  In fact, the lead Republican opposition to the Obama proposal of lowering the rate and closing the loopholes is that the Republicans want corporations to pay less than they are paying now.


My biggest concern with this line of thinking is that it all revolves around the research you did while researching a specific proposal in this congress as a politics disad.  I think it's reasonable to assume that this means there is a lot about corporate tax reform you did not address.  And it would make sense that most of the evidence you found was about lowering the tax rate and closing loopholes because it was, after all, the DA you were looking for.  I think the paper outlines other affirmatives, with evidence from law reviews and think tank studies, that fit under each of these areas.

I'm kind of scared that you think there aren't policy analysts and organizations out there who want to make corporations pay more money without lowering the tax base.....  the cede the political disad isn't THAT true.

I also am concerned that Malcolm has exaggerated the uniqueness question.  There is a great deal of literature saying corporate tax reform could pass and pass this year.  His paper includes a card on the question of "not before the 2012 election" but there is a lot of evidence that says corporate tax reform can pass now and is the most likely area for bipartisan cooperation between the Republicans and Obama.


This concern is somewhat valid.  There is a chance some corporate tax legislation could get proposed.  To be fair I included more than one card on this, from multiple perspectives.  It's generally unlikely that prior to an election that will cost Obama two billion dollars, he will proposed sweeping corporate tax policies. 

Even the uniqueness cards provided in your file are ok for politics uniqueness cards, but nowhere close to conclusive.  I also included a card that explicitly said that everyone of Obama's proposals (the revenue neutral approach you say is the core of the topic) fails to address the biggest sources of lost tax revenue.  At worst, this would present a scenario where one of the revenue neutral affs goes away.  the paper outlines ways the aff can still run big policy advantages even without this aff.  Again, i think you are not giving much credit to the content of the paper, and basing a lot of these conclusions on a politics scenario. 

BUT, more research should be done on this sooner rather than later.  the community should know the relative likelihood that reform is going to pass now. My reading is only one opinion, but we should look at other possibilities, with more recent evidence.

I was hoping that the paper left open the possibility of the Obama proposal to move from 35% to 20% AND closing the loopholes.  However, it appears the way the controversy is framed "broaden the corporate tax base," that it does not.  The paper goes the opposite direction of the bulk of the literature I have found on this issue when researching this scenario for both districts and the NDT in 100+ page politics files.  I simply don't think there is much mainstream literature defending that corporations should pay more, outside of the far left "screw the corporations" crowd.


already explained this earlier.  the paper clearly allows for this affirmative because it's revenue neutral.  also, the bulk of the literature you found on this issue was part of a disad you cut that only defended the one specific kind of reform you mention.  other affs are presented in the paper including some footnotes you can read up on.

Second, a broader taxation topic would be better.  I would suggest we wait a year and craft a broader taxation topic that includes individual taxation, environmental taxation, and "sin taxes." 

First of all, Malcolm's paper does not address the lead issue on taxation confronting the administration:  whether or not to continue the Bush tax cuts, especially on the wealthiest Americans.  The core controversy that led to the deal Obama cut to get the budget passed that arguably led to the success of START and DADT in the lame duck was his deal to continue the Bush era tax cuts.  These are individual taxes, not corporate taxes.  This is the issue that has the most relevance in people's everyday lives when they go to H&R Block every year to pay their taxes, not corporate taxes.

Second, the "taxaphobia" of America does lead to revenue shortfalls in all kinds of areas.  There's good literature in the debate about "soaking the rich" that discusses how we can't pay for universal health care, or even our military commitments abroad unless we foot the bill.  In a sense, this is a warrant for Malgor's paper, because it does provide the edifice for the argument that we need to discuss how we pay for things.  However, the issue of corporate taxation is one component of that larger picture.  Soaking the corporations is an affirmative case on a taxation topic, not a whole resolution.

Third, broadening the area to include environmental taxes would allow us to discuss gas taxes, carbon taxes, etc.  Anyone paying prices at the pump these days and frustrated that the US hasn't made the transition to renewable energy might ask if it is the lack of taxes we pay on those kinds of commodities would be useful.  I also think there is merit to discussing cigarette taxes, alcohol taxes, snack taxes, etc.  Those kinds of issues are the ones most relevant to everyday Americans.


in a perfect world we would debate every one of those things in one topic.  unfortunately, we have a lot of competitive issues to deal with when crafting a resolution.  you just proposed debating two different tax systems AND throwing a giant energy tax topic on top of that.  That's a lot of literature. 

corporate taxes ARE important.  They are a much smaller percentage of government revenue compared to individual and pay roll taxes, but they are the only sector of tax revenue that continues to go DOWN, not up.  I also provided contextual evidence that showed key links between corporate taxation, budget deficits, social spending, and economic inequality.  Once again, vague claims but there is no part of the arguments contained in the paper you are outlining that show it doesn't access these areas. 

Everyday people are very concerned with the taxes they pay.  they are probably more concerned about those taxes than the ones companies pay, but that doesn't mean they are NOT concerned with corporate taxes.  many people are.  and tax/budget policy will be a big part of the next election, meaning public interest will go up.

When you called for comparisons between topics, I didn't know it would be between topic papers and theoretical topics that no one wrote.  If that's the case, there are an infinite number of unwritten, terrible topics that corporate taxes would be WAY better than.  This delay counterplan is not compelling because tax reform in individual and corporate sectors is coming after the election. 

And, the bush tax cuts are a big issue, and will probably not be extended again in the status quo.  Very unlikely, unless Obama loses the election.  This next year could be our last chance for a while to debate these issues.

My major opposition to Malcolm's paper is that I think it isn't nearly broad enough.  I'd like to see the issue of taxation discussed, and do think it has tremendous relevance.  However, my read of the corporate taxation literature is that he has chosen a narrow section of even that literature, and not a broader taxation focus.  I would like to see the paper re-booted for next year to be inclusive of these other approaches I've mentioned.

community consensus year after year seems to be limits limits limits.  Even when presented with broad resolutions, the narrow ones typically win.  I don't see any explanation in your post for why corporate tax reform is not a broad topic.  Each area I presented has some distinct advantages, and multiple affs and cps under each area.  I would love to discuss whether it is too narrow, but when you just assert that it is with no further support, it's hard to engage. 

Also, my paper says the resolution would require corporate tax reform that at a minimum broadens the tax base.  The topic committee is free to add as many areas and affirmatives (I already briefly mentioned the capital gains tax as another big area) as they need to make the topic large again, as long as those two requirements are met.  I just picked core areas that were well supported in the literature. 

you are the first person who has suggested that the debates would be too narrow.  most others are concerned they will be too in depth.

Love the discussion, but let's get more in depth.  Which parts of the paper are too limiting?  In what ways do you find the topic too narrow?


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Ryan Galloway
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« Reply #26 on: May 04, 2011, 05:50:40 PM »

Last post for a while on this question.

First, the clarifications have been very helpful, and I am a lot more optimistic about this idea after getting a better read of the paper, understanding how the controversy fits into the resolution, and where the topic could go.  So for all that, I'm glad I may have gotten a little bit of a pie in the face for not understanding as much to begin with.  But hey, you live, you learn. 

Second, most of my remaining disagreements (and this has moved way up on our ballot) merely deal with how relevant corporate taxes are compared to other taxes.  I think we could access the taxes question better by doing individual taxes and potentially corporate taxes in the future.  And, as people know, I'm happy to write papers, and the overall increase taxes paper is a road I started.

I prefer Middle East democracy because of the pertinence of the Arab Spring literature (the entire most recent issue of Foreign Affairs is about this, I read much of it in a bookstore this morning).  However, this is a good topic that is doable.  That's my current read, comparison, and thoughts.  If this doesn't win, I'd be happy to help Malcolm working on encompassing more taxes next time around, if that's the route he wishes to take.

RG
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mschnall
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« Reply #27 on: May 06, 2011, 04:17:45 PM »

I am pleasantly surprised/amused to see tax reform seriously considered as a debate topic.  One general comment on the topic area from someone who has thought a little about these subjects.

On a very basic level, Ryan is correct: Whether to limit the topic to corporate tax reform as opposed to broader tax reform is a huge decision. 

"Fundamental corporate tax reform" is almost an oxymoron, as most of the fundamental tax reform topics being discussed today do not directly implicate the corporate tax system.  The biggest such topic is shifting a significant portion of our national tax base to a consumption tax.  A consumption tax would not be a corporate tax; it would be a general tax imposed on individuals and businesses.  Similarly, the whole debate over progressivity and the effective rates paid by the wealthy vs. middle-class vs. poor relates to the individual income tax, not the corporate income tax.  The distinction between taxation of earned income vs. income from capital (and the associated debate over taxation of "carried interests" in investment companies) is mostly relevant to the individual income tax.  Social Security and Medicare taxes and how to fund those systems are likewise not corporate tax topics.

Realistically, corporate tax reform also will not move the needle on the deficit.  The U.S. corporate income tax generates about 10% of federal government revenue -- $191 billion in 2010 (CBO, 04/2011) -- which is in line with other OECD countries (per OECD in 2008, the average across all OECD countries ranged from 8% to 10% of revenue from 1965 to 2008).  With the deficit in 2010 at $1.294 trillion, making a realistic dent would require something like a quadrupling of corporate tax revenues.  If you accept estimates of the current "effective" corporate tax rate in the U.S. at around 20%, quadrupling revenue would take that to 80%, which is absurd. 

There are certainly interesting topics within what could reasonably be called corporate tax reform -- world-wide vs. territorial taxation (although query whether it would make sense to reform the corporate system without simultaneously reforming the same aspect of the individual income tax, where the U.S. is just as much an outlier), base-widening/rate reduction, corporate tax integration (most other OECD countries do not impose a full-barrel double tax on corporate income, as the U.S. does; however, I think that most implement integration at the individual level through a remittance credit, not at the corporate level), harmonizing the treatment of debt and equity (but many of the reform proposals, including those cited in the paper, would require corresponding changes to the individual income tax), entity classification (taxing other business entities like corporations), withholding/taxation of gains on inbound foreign investment (not truly a corporate tax but it would largely be corporations doing the withholding) -- and they are vastly important to the business community operating in the U.S., both U.S.-based and foreign-based companies with U.S. operations.  With the possible exception of corporate tax integration and some of the base/rate proposals, however, they are not genuinely fundamental issues. 

I would humbly suggest that if the desire is to debate fundamental tax reform, a preferable topic wording would be along the lines of "Congress should fundamentally reform the United States federal income tax."  I suspect the community would find the term "fundamental reform" to be a more effective limiter than "substantial" as it is generally understood to involve a change that revises one or more basic policies underlying the tax system while maintaining the basic structure of (in this case) an income tax.  If directionality is desired, it could be along the lines of revenue generation or progressivity.

-- Matt
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