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TOPIC COMMITTEE => Archive => 2011 - 2012 Topic => Topic started by: Malgor on April 24, 2011, 04:31:18 PM

Title: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: Malgor on April 24, 2011, 04:31:18 PM
I think i'm the first one in.  I knew being alone on easter would pay off! 

This paper is about the necessity of broadening the corporate tax base through corporate tax reform.

malgor
Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: Trigaux on April 25, 2011, 03:58:54 PM
After a survey of my team, a majority expressed reservations, and several members expressed downright frustration and horror at the prospect of debating the tax code. The results were clear--if tax reform is the topic, students will walk away from the activity. This will especially affect novice and JV debaters who are key to the sustainability of the activity. While there will always be a cadre of hard core debaters who will jump into whatever boring research is put in front of them, the larger community will shrink around them. While most of the members of this forum are coaches, not debaters, I encourage you to actually ask your teams before considering this proposal. You may find that you won't have much of a team if this is chosen.
While considerations like aff neg balance, research quality, timeliness, etc. must be considered, also include a sense of topic accessibility for the non-econ major. 
Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: antonucci23 on April 25, 2011, 04:17:38 PM
I agree with the conclusion: ask the debaters.

I'm skeptical of the premise, though.  Intercollegiate policy debate exists, in part, to teach wonky details.  We fail our students collectively if we avoid topics which seems complicated.  Yes, it's hard.  Learn.

Also, "X topic directly affects participation number" rhetoric (in either direction) is generally overblown and difficult to substantiate.  I think that the number of students who want to do something super-nerdy and lawyerish on a weekend doesn't vary much with specific topic or even agent.
Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: BlackEaglejs on April 25, 2011, 05:31:18 PM
While I agree that as policy debaters and coaches that we shouldn't shy away from difficult topics that require a lot of in-depth research and require us to seriously dig into what all these tax codes mean, I still have some reservations over this topic. First, I'm used to a lot of technical material with particularly dense reading (I was premed and political science in undergrad), so I don't typically let such things deter me. But I have serious difficulty understanding how this topic works - after multiple readings, I'm still confused as to what "revenue neutral" versus "revenue positive" tax reform means. How would affirmatives choose which loopholes in the tax code they close, or do they close all of them? Lastly, I'm a little confused about how we get to competitiveness and free trade. If the effective corporate tax rate is already so low, why aren't companies flocking to the United States to set up shop? Is it a perceptual thing over the government setting the rates so high? Or are other countries' effective tax rates even lower than ours?

Zoheb Nensey
Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: Malgor on April 26, 2011, 10:55:34 AM
trigaux-

it's hard to respond to the "my casual survey of a squad indicates your topic will destroy debate" chain of thought.  In some ways, your post gets to the core of the problem in the status quo.  MNCs and government lobbyists want the corporate tax code to be as complicated as possible to prevent the public from engaging in debates over tax policy.  It's a great way to institute a massive transfer of wealth from the middle and lower class to the upper .01 percent of the population and not have anyone talk about it in policy circles.  I don't think your kids will really quit because I have confidence in your ability to explain to them why it's important to understand what happens when the public is swindled out of billions in tax revenue.  one section of the paper is about how the tax code encourages companies to finance their corporations with massive amounts of debt, and invest it in other debts, one of the key culprits in the 08 crash.

Aside from that, the concepts outlined in the paper aren't overly complex, though it doesn't sound like the debaters surveyed read the paper.  Everything we debate is complex, but we use policy papers and law reviews that break these complex ideas down for us. 

Zoheb-

revenue neutral means you broaden the tax base by closing loopholes, then you use that money to lower the corporate tax rate.  it's revenue neutral because it doesn't directly lower the deficit.  it uses the money gained to lower taxes.

revenue positive means you just close the loophole and keep the tax rate high.  it's revenue positive because the government has more money to spend than it did before.  these tax policies are used to run budget deficit/inequality/social spending advantages.

as far as how the aff closes loopholes in the tax code, those are laid out in the major policy proposals section of the paper.  i outlined book-tax conformity, debt vs equity, tax deferrals, and sovereign wealth funds as areas.  each of those areas contains a few affs.  'close loopholes' is just a simpler way of saying 'broaden the tax base' which is the main goal of the topic paper-to require the aff to get more companies paying taxes.

to give an example, in the debt v equity section there are two mainstream affs outlined.  One would end the deduction on debt interest payments (so companies can no longer get bigger tax breaks by having bigger debts).  The other would be to add a deduction for investments made with equity.  This doesn't actually increase the tax base, so depending on how the rez is worded it might be a counterplan, the net benefit being the 'investment da' (ending the deduction on interest payments means companies can't afford to leverage no investments with debt when they need to, deters investment and hurts growth).

any other questions just ask.  i think the topic paper proves that this issue is not overly technical and impossible to understand.  the same think tanks, law reviews, and newspapers we always rely on for topic evidence write about corporate tax reform, and they don't do it in some foreign language.
Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: Paul Elliott Johnson on April 26, 2011, 01:27:58 PM
I rather liked this topic paper, and I hope it gets some serious consideration. I do think the neg ground to counterplan out of a lot the social service advantages while playing some shell games does make the advantage debate a good deal more narrow that anticipated, and also that while competitiveness is big, most of its impacts related to tech development (warming, disease, etc.) are about technologies that many other nations could develop, so we're back to the much narrower hegemony debate.

Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: tcram on April 26, 2011, 02:41:37 PM
Three questions for Malgor or anyone else familiar with the literature:

1) Where is the literature primarily housed?  I get that think-tanks will play a huge role, but has the scholarly/book research caught up with the debate?  Feel free to use other topics as a benchmark.

2) Do a lot of these aff's have a good solvency deficit against advantage CPs or offsetting revenue from other sources, etc?  Essentially, are there good 'some people say do this, but we're totally boned if we don't deal with corporate taxes' cards?

3) Obviously it is a political lightening rod and I think the debate will be good on the elections disad, but are there credible link-turn options for the agenda disad? Especially if elections follows the traditional trajectory of being pretty spotty/bad as a strategy until Fall of 2012?  Not that this needs to be a primary consideration for choosing a topic, but I think it should be asked.

Bonus #4) On the question of terms to possibly include, which approach has more merit/problems?: A) leaving things like revenue direction out and making it a probabilistic solvency question or B) adding those terms and possibly creating a PIC debate that would close loop-holes but exclude any revenue-neutral or positive requirements of the plan?  I think that I would prefer B but wonder if there is a sufficient lit-based debate on the differences between those mechanisms? 
Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: Malgor on April 26, 2011, 05:29:52 PM
1)  I'm sure you'll notice most of the cards in the topic paper are from law reviews and other peer reviewed sources.  I didn't research any books, but the corporate tax policies outlined have been around since the last tax major corporate tax reform, which was in 1986.  Some of them were created when the Bush tax cuts passed in 03.  Scholarly work is abundant and I'm sure there are plenty of books as well.

2) Advantage cps-it really depends on the aff (as always).  I think you are talking about CPs to just fund whatever social spending cuts the aff staves off; there are a few ways the aff can approach this.  Broadly, the aff will have access to other advantage areas that cp doesn't solve (consistency/efficiency of tax code, offshoring, trade distortions, economic inequality).  Specifically, assuming the aff is talking about budget deficits, the neg can't just fund social services and claim to decrease deficits.  

Presumably (this is the shell game I believe PJ refers to), the negative will specify a program they cut to make up for the revenue the aff generates with their tax reform.  First, I think this is a higher burden for the negative than many think.  Tax reform means the revenue is permanent, and also related to growth (when the economy goes up companies make more money, paying more taxes).  The spending cut would have to prove it can sustain at the same levels and with the same consistency as the tax increase.  Second, since the spending cut would have to be something that is 'guaranteed funding' over many years, it greatly limits the parts of the budget the neg can use for this cp.  Third, any deficit or social spending advantage area will be directly tied to the debate about economic inequality.  These counterplans would have a hard time solving these arguments because rather than increasing revenue, they are decreasing spending, which is still the concept of transferring money between programs that the middle/lower class pay for.

Next is the net benefit to these cps.  It can't be the other program they cut bc the aff can permute that.  I think it's fair to say it can't be politics, either, because even if the neg can win there's no PC lost with their cp (because the program they cut is unpopular), the part of the aff they are solving is politically contentious.  So, I assume the net benefit would just be the tax loopholes are good, which all the advantage arguments mentioned above answer.  

I'd also like to point out that the above two paragraphs are probably more confusing than anything you'll read on the tax topic.

3)  yes, affs will be able to generate 'no links' and 'link turns' against the politics disad, because rare is the topic where you can't.  I'll get into a bit more detail.   Members of the far left want revenue positive reform-get rid of the loopholes and use the money to pay down the deficit and prevent social spending cuts.  Members in the moderate left (Obama) definitely want the loopholes closed, and would like to use that money to lower the corporate tax rate.  Members of the moderate right want the tax rates down-the loopholes they care about but not as much as everyone else.  Members of the far want the rates down and most of the loopholes closed.  Of course there is some divergence in each of those groups like always.  But the point is there are big chunks of the topic that are popular with various members, so your typical politics debate about who has more influence on what agenda items and who is needed to pass them will be robust.

4) Bonus Answer- as for A, i don't quite think it just becomes a probabilistic solvency question, but the answer is still strongly B.  You describe two PICs- out of revenue neutral, or revenue positive.

So if the aff is revenue neutral, they close loopholes but lower taxes.  If the neg lowers taxes but doesn't close loopholes, they are revenue negative.  It basically means they are defending a cp to take 100s of billions of dollars out of government funding every single year.  there is evidence that says lowering the rate while keeping all the deferrals in place would bleed the gov dry.  The other cp, to close the loopholes but leave tax rates high means the aff can leverage their offshoring/competitiveness arguments against the neg.  "you increase tax revenue, but with no loopholes AND this super high tax rate, no one will invest in america etc etc"

If the aff is revenue positive, they expand the tax base and use the money to pay down the deficit/fund the budget. CP options are more limited here (as far as your PIC goes).  You can't really pic out of the part where the aff uses the money to pay down the deficit etc, because the aff doesn't fiat that, it's just something they lead to.  I'm sure there are ways around this for the neg.  I'll think on it more.  Thanks for the questions-it's great to get a lot of these issues figured out.

Long post.  I plan on writing a post soon about how awesome the cp debates on tax reform are-much better than some of the other topics IMO.
Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: gabemurillo on April 27, 2011, 03:36:39 PM
Trigaux -

Having just read the corporate tax reform paper I have to say there is nothing inherent within this topic, and specifically this paper, that excludes JV and Novice debate. I knew little to nothing about corporate tax policy and still found this paper to be interesting, timely and easy to digest. I'm not writing this as an endorsement of this topic over others (I've still got a couple more papers to read) but I worry about the general argument of "this is boring" or "this is too complex" blocking the potential for this topic.

One major point of contention I have to the "general team poll" is that this seems to negate the job of a coach (especially a coach with a large JV and/or novice squad). When I approach the younger members of my team with the topic I view it as my job to sell the topic to them. I can imagine the wording of most of the topics we've had over the last years being an immediate "turn off" to less experienced debaters, but this is why the coach of said teams should correctly frame the topic to their students. I could make an argument that starting a discussion with JV / Novice students about the ins and outs of h1-b visas versus eb-5 visas would have probably turned a bunch of kids off of debate, so instead I started by talking about the different reasons someone might apply for a visa, and moved from this more accessible topic slowly towards a more nuanced discussion of the topic, advantage areas, potential affirmatives etc. This strategy not only gave our students an acceptable grasp on what they were debating, but also got them excited about what otherwise might have been viewed as a boring topic. 

I also think it is short sighted to say that this topic will be boring to non-economics majors. After hearing the news that major corporations are not paying taxes, in combination with the knowledge of the state of social services across the country, it seems like anyone can get into a topic which allows us to close that gap. And the potential for affirmatives to still be attractive to businesses means that a large chunk of the political spectrum in debate should be pleased or at least interested to learn more about this issue. Yes there are some parts of the topic that might be new or difficult to understand, but isn't that the point of picking new topics?

I sincerely hope that the scare tactic of "our whole team will quit" is not used as a legitimate argument against this topic. Instead we should focus on the topics ability to produce predictable, fair and diverse debates for an entire season. If those things are accomplished I trust in my fellow coaches ability to sell a topic to younger debaters.

all the best
gabe   
Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: Zeke on April 27, 2011, 05:49:54 PM
After reading the paper, I've become really interested in this controversy area. I notice your paper mentions it, but I think it under examines the ability for affirmatives to be critical while still instrumentally upholding the resolution. This is not a negative to the topic, in my opinion, but rather a boon. A lot of teams that do not typically uphold the resolution could discuss the inequality issues in America, like you mentioned, and have very specific evidence that instrumentally implementing the plan is the key internal link for issues like racism and classism.

Any resolution that strongly supports instrumental, critical affirmatives is better than one that does not in my book. Of course, some would disagree with me, but it's just my opinion.
Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: Malgor on April 27, 2011, 06:36:06 PM
i did not dedicate enough time to critical arguments, i admit.

If the assumption that people who prefer to run Ks are also generally on the left end of the political spectrum, this topic should speak to them directly.  It is a cornerstone policy issue for progressives, and economic inequality is the heart of progressive philosophy.  The people most effected by this are those at lower-middle and lower level of the income range. 

There are a lot of good k affs, including a standard progressive aff about the value of promoting economic equality in society.  I also think the mechanism gives the aff some good K answers to the standard neoliberlism/cap Ks.

Of all the mechanisms presented so far, i think prison reform and tax reform are the two that are most consistent with typical critical views on politics.

Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: Malgor on April 28, 2011, 11:26:02 AM
in an effort to make the components and limits of corporate tax reform clear, i'm posting some more cards explaining some of the main stream affs.  this law review dealt with affs under the 'tax deferral' section of the topic paper.  Some of them are explained well, including footnotes that cite common negative authors.

each of these affs has a case debate about how they effect investment and corporate growth.  Issues like worldwide and territorial systems are also explained in this evidence.  i think these cards show that there is ample ground on both sides for these topic affs.

Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: Zeke on April 29, 2011, 12:01:17 PM
Quick question: would a team that runs a revenue positive aff that only closes loopholes be able to run it as a CP against a revenue neutral aff that cuts taxes and closes loopholes and just have a huge case throwdown? Because that seems like a fun debate to me. Plus, if the neg runs a K, they can make the argument that it doesn't link to their own CP, depending on the K.
Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: Malgor on April 29, 2011, 01:36:07 PM
yes, since the revenue neutral aff has two components

1) close loopholes

2) lower tax rate


the cp to just do 1) but not 2) is competitive, and the debate would be about whether or not tax cuts are stimulatory for long term tax revenue and economic growth.
Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: gabemurillo on April 29, 2011, 06:37:30 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. I wonder if peoples lack of debate or questions about this topic is based solely on the perceived "inaccessibility" of this topic. I personally think this response is inaccurate and insufficient for picking a topic. A couple thoughts (I apologize to Malcolm in advance if any of the below comments misrepresent the topic please feel free to correct any mistakes I've made)

This topic is not boring! I wonder how much of peoples reaction is founded on the framing of the topic area. "Corporate Tax Reform" can be a turn off if one doesn't engage the topic paper. Maybe if people thought of the topic in different terms it might deal with this problem. Two suggestions -

A) "Leftist" debaters should think of this topic as the Screw Corporations topic. Seriously there are corporations that are making absurd amounts of money and paying little to no taxes. This is such an obvious and overt example of the larger system of social and economic inequality. On the aff you will be able to force these corporations to pay taxes, and argue the social benefits of this action. There are a lot of reasons this type of aff would be very interesting to run and research.

B) "Traditional" debaters should view this topic as the Promote American Business topic. This topic offers the option for the aff to close loop holes in tax code while also decreasing the overall tax rate for businesses. This allows affs to read arguments about the importance of maintaining American businesses and the economy. Sure we have had topics with competitiveness arguments but this topic allows for distinct internal links to these arguments. It also allows for more robust and timely argument about the economy. There are also good answers to annoying to deal with generics (IE agent counterplans) that plague the other topics

This topic seems like a win for a wider argumentative spectrum then most other topics available. This balance is important for sustainable debates for a majority of teams over the course of the year.  

One concern I've heard is that there are portions of this topic that are technically very difficult to digest, I think the following things respond to this concern
 
A) The agricultural subsidies topic also had the potential to become overly technical (evaluating levels of ag support, the different types of ag support, how they are applied to different situations etc) but I never found these issues to block or hurt the debates that were happening on that topic.

B) This is a reason we should debate this topic. It seems like there is a generally consensus that as a community we don't know very much about corporate tax policy. To me this increases the educational value of this topic. Corporations are using the publics general disdain or ignorance about tax policy to really stick it to us. If the arguments about topic education that relate to our ability to become effective decision makers in a variety of policy areas are true, then why shouldn't our confusion about tax code be one of the major benefits of debating this topic?

I really hope that people don't disregard this topic based on a gut check feeling about the concept of taxes. I would love to see more debate and discussion on this forum about the substance of the topic. Malcolm has done an excellent job in answering and preempting peoples potential concerns with the substance of this topic, and I say lets keep asking questions!

all the best
gabe      
Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: BrianDeLong 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?

Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: max.o.archer 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
Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: gabemurillo 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
Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: Seth Gannon 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!
Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: jgonzo 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.
Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: max.o.archer 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
Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: Malgor 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.



Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: Malgor 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.
Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: max.o.archer 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
Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: gabemurillo 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



 
Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: Malgor 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?


Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: Ryan Galloway 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
Title: Re: 2011-2012 topic paper- corporate tax reform
Post by: mschnall 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