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Author Topic: Mandatory/Entitlement Spending Reductions  (Read 4474 times)
Vexed
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« on: April 12, 2012, 01:33:44 AM »

It seems to me that both the high school and debate communities have managed to largely skirt debating some pretty big looming issues (although capturing portions of these debates in other topics), namely the healthcare debate and the United States' dangerously high amount of mandatory/entitlement spending. I think a topic on entitlement reform (namely reductions) would be both timely, have a large literature base of varying solvency evidence, and also engage head-on in some ways the economic debates many have been clamoring for. While most probably initially think of the "big three" entitlement spending programs (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) there's also a substantial chunk of the US's entitlement budget that is fairly diverse and offers ripe ground for a topic committee to pick areas within the larger controversy.

In terms of resolutions, the starting point I have in my head would be something along the lines of "Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially decrease its entitlement spending in one or more of the following areas: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Education, Welfare.

Wording is obviously something to look into a bit more for both preciseness (namely the usage of "mandatory spending" vs. "entitlement spending") as well as community desire for broadness. For instance, the resolution could lend itself to narrowing down certain "areas" to more specific programs - IE, instead of "Education" perhaps "Student Loans".

A quick rundown of potential topic areas:

Social Security is becoming a larger and larger "elephant in the room" in terms of looming economic and political concerns - this seems to lend itself to perhaps the largest literature base, as there are a number of proposals that have been floating around for decades now. Depending on the wording, affs could argue for complete privatization or a change in eligibility.

Medicare/Medicaid are the other big spenders in terms of a topic area like this, and of course they access different areas of the economy, health care, as well as different affirmative mechanisms that can be toyed around with.

TARP is obviously a recent addition to mandatory spending but a controversial one. I'd imagine there's some interesting cap links on this one, as well as a much larger case debate on the finance sector.

Education, while receiving a large amount of discretionary funding, also has a chunk of entitlement spending it takes up, namely for student loans and various grant programs for both colleges and K-12 funding. Given the fact that entitlement spending in education is a significantly smaller portion of overall entitlement spending compared to the big three spenders, a resolution that carefully tailors itself to significant reductions within specific areas (as opposed to overall entitlement spending) may be more desirable for those who wish to include the "other" programs in entitlement spending.

Welfare is also one of the smaller subsets of entitlement spending, but offers a lot in terms of ground for critical affirmatives to talk about the nature of the welfare system as it is administered now, and how that affects various notions of class, gender, and race. There also seems to be a fairly intricate case debate to be had about the general principals of the welfare system as we know it.

Transportation also receives a chunk of mandatory spending, namely for necessary maintenance of critical portions of the transportation infrastructure. This area obviously might overlap with both the critical infrastructure paper from last year and of course this year's high school topics. Could be interesting ground for a switch to privatization.

Pension benefits, for both government employees and military veterans. There's a fairly decent literature base on the effects of government employee pensions and their impact on the economy.



There's more to be looked into of course, but these seem to be the areas that pop right out at me. Some general concerns I have: 1. I don't know if there's a generic "entitlement reductions bad" argument (outside of a politics link) that negatives can always rely on, 2. That being said, the politics link might be TOO good, 3. Critical ground is sort of weak, 4. In terms of policy impact I think you're going to have a lot of econ debates, which is good, but may hurt diversity of impacts... the community is creative and the rise of these de-dev arguments might spice it up.

Thoughts? Concerns? Interest?
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joe
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« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2012, 08:49:46 AM »

The big problem I see with this topic is the mechanism of cutting "entitlements".  I doubt many people want to spend an entire year defending cuts affecting the poor.  The subject matter is interesting and important, but we are probably too liberal of a community for a topic of that direction to win out.

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Chris Crowe
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« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2012, 04:13:29 PM »

This seems like a potential place where we can bite the "bi-directionality" bullet by thinking about crafting a topic that would allow the affirmative to fiat a comprehensive entitlement spending change in a few limited areas. Sure, you could increase or decrease spending (or take money from some to another), but it could get more directly to the heart of the real entitlement spending debates than just flat cutting would.

Everybody always cries bi-directionality, but in the day and age that we're asking students to master so many different types of information on each side of the topic, it doesn't seem too unreasonable an idea to explore as long as the area remains small/manageable.
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Chris Crowe
Adam Symonds
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« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2012, 04:55:21 PM »

This seems like a potential place where we can bite the "bi-directionality" bullet by thinking about crafting a topic that would allow the affirmative to fiat a comprehensive entitlement spending change in a few limited areas. Sure, you could increase or decrease spending (or take money from some to another), but it could get more directly to the heart of the real entitlement spending debates than just flat cutting would.

Everybody always cries bi-directionality, but in the day and age that we're asking students to master so many different types of information on each side of the topic, it doesn't seem too unreasonable an idea to explore as long as the area remains small/manageable.

Couldn't agree more with this. I think mandating comprehensive reform is a far better way to limit the topic than the combination of substantially and choosing the cut spending side of the two prongs. Comprehensive national health insurance was an effectively limiting phrase on the health care debates oh so long ago.
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stables
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« Reply #4 on: April 12, 2012, 10:08:30 PM »

This thread is great example of how we could consider two distinct controversies in a single topic paper. To be responsive to the community's interest in great wording variety an author might consider making the case for a) comprehensive reform AND b) directional cuts as distinct options. Both could appear on the controversy ballot and the community could make the judgment to accept a more complex, even if potentially bidirectional, proposal.

To reinforce the comments from the women's right topic thread, we welcome exploration and examination. We appreciate all of this work and encourage everyone to continue.

Gordon
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Gordon Stables
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs
Director of Debate & Forensics
Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
University of Southern California
Malgor
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« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2012, 09:33:47 AM »

Yeah that topic would only not be morally reprehensible if it were broader allowing the aff to say reform entitlements by slashing military budgets and reforming the tax code.
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