The Instigator
brett.winstead
Con (against)
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The Contender
Oromagi
Pro (for)
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Big Oil companies actually receive tax subsidies

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/29/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,384 times Debate No: 41406
Debate Rounds (5)
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brett.winstead

Con

I am wanting to debate with someone who truly believes that oil companies receive tax subsidies like Obama and many other members of the media and politics say. My criteria for an opponent: 1. You must really believe this (no devil's advocates) and 2. You must completely understand the definition of a subsidy. Please spend some time Googling that if necessary because a lot of people do not.

I just had a frustrating conversation with a friend who for the 3rd time expressed his frustration with the government giving money to these oil companies in subsidies. Each time I explain to him that he is mistaken, he cannot hear me. He will not read what I try to give him. He wants to believe it due to his hatred of most any large company and his lack of knowledge on taxes.
Oromagi

Pro

I'll accept that debate and thank Con for the opportunity.

THESIS: Big Oil companies receive federal tax subsidies.

DEFINITION1: Big Oil- "Big Oil" is a name used to describe the world's five or six largest publicly owned oil and gas companies, also known as "supermajors". The supermajors are considered to be BP plc, Chevron Corporation, ExxonMobil Corporation, Royal Dutch Shell plc, and Total SA, with ConocoPhillips Company also sometimes described as forming part of the group. [1]

DEFINITION2: Subsidy- noun \G2;səb-sə-dē, -zə-\



: money that is paid usually by a government to keep the price of a product or service low or to help a business or organization to continue to function [2]


The latin stem of the word originates from the Roman term for reserve troops: subsidium, which is in turn rooted in the latin word for sit or set : sedere. So, the essence of the word's meaning is equivalent to "set aside": set aside troops, set aside money, etc. The purpose or intent for the set aside is not necessarily implied by the word.


For a more expansive definition of subsidy, let's look at Wikipedia:


"A subsidy is a form of financial or in kind support extended to an economic sector (or institution, business, or individual) generally with the aim of promoting beneficial economic and social outcomes. Although commonly extended from Government, the term subsidy can relate to any type of support - for example from NGOs or implicit subsidies. Subsidies have a long track record and today come in various forms including: direct (cash grants, interest-free loans), indirect (tax breaks, insurance, low-interest loans, depreciation write-offs, rent rebates). Furthermore, they can be broad or narrow, legal or illegal, ethical or unethical. The most common forms of subsidies are those to the producer or the consumer. Producer/Production subsidies ensure producers are better off by either supplying market price support, direct support, or payments to factors of production. Consumer/Consumption subsidies commonly reduce the price of goods and services to the consumer, for example in the US at one time it was cheaper to buy petrol than bottled water." [3]


Let's also note that the notion of oil companies receiving subsidies is sufficiently commonplace to be used as the first example of a subsidy in the most popular general reference work available on the internet.


Tax breaks and tax write-offs are therefore defined as ordinary examples of indirect subsidy. Since virtually every taxpayer, corporate or otherwise, benefits from some tax breaks and write-offs to some degree, the notion that Big Oil would somehow fail to receive some benefit would seem nonsensical. In truth, the U.S. Senate estimates that Big Oil benefits from roughly $20 billion each year in subsidies provided under six major programs:


*Dual Capacity Tax Preferences


*Domestic Manufacturing Deductions


*Intangible Drilling Cost Deductions


*Percentage Depletion Allowances


*Tertiary Injections Deductions


*Royalty relief for Outer Continental Shelf Deepwater Oil and Gas Production


There are other tax breaks and write-offs besides, but these six were candidates for modification or repeal under the provisions of a failed 2012 Senate Bill- SB2204 The "Repeal Big Oil Subsidies Act." [4] This act is mostly responsible for giving birth to the argument that tax breaks for Big Oil should not be called subsidies. During the debate, the definition of the word "subsidy" itself became politicized in a fashion reminiscent of the way one man's "war hero" is another man's "terrorist." Conservatives objected to pejorative potential of the word "subsidy" and preferred the positive spin of "incentive" or "business deductions."


"The president repeatedly conflates not taking even more money from oil companies through higher taxes with actual subsidies such as the government giving cash to Solyndra,"is one example of this type of thinking from the office of Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski. [5] Republican venues such as the Washington Times [6] and Fox News picked up the talking point and dutifully disseminated the re-definition of the word "subsidy." Subsidies to Big Oil were no longer to be referred to as subsidies. Similar or identical subsidies for wind or solar energy interests were still to be referred to as "subsidies."


Outside of the contexts of Big Oil and conservative politics, this novel definition of subsidy has no currency. Republicans use the word subsidy to include tax breaks in any context outside of big oil. Republican Representative Jim Jordan, for example, has no problem including tax breaks when he describes Federal subsidies offered for the Chevy Volt. [7] When Lamar Alexander wants to put an end to identical tax breaks for wind energy, he has no problem calling those tax breaks subsidies. [8]


Even Big Oil itself is willing to call some of its tax breaks subsidies. One ExxonMobil document reports, "Of the $16.6 billion spent on U.S. energy subsidies over the course of one year... oil and natural gas received about 13 percent." [9] or BP in its 2030 outlook: "Budget constraints may challenge subsidies for consumption in many emerging economies..." [10]


Fortunately for the purposes of this debate, we have no need to adjudicate the relative value of Big Oil tax breaks or to take sides in the partisan debate on the matter. We need only to establish that Big Oil companies receive tax breaks and submit tax write-offs just like most other taxpaying companies and people. Since we have established that "subsidy" is a correct and appropriate term for such transactions, Republicans have little cause in thieir objection to word as it is applied to fiscal set asides for Big Oil.



[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[2] http://www.merriam-webster.com...
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[4]http://thomas.loc.gov...:
[5]http://www.eenews.net...
[6]http://www.washingtontimes.com...
[7]http://www.politifact.com...
[8]http://www.alexander.senate.gov...
[9]http://www.exxonmobilperspectives.com...
[10]http://www.bp.com...

Debate Round No. 1
brett.winstead

Con

Thanks for accepting the debate and thanks also for not referring to me as Con. I find that annoying.

My friend thinks that tax dollars go to the oil companies and he routinely calls it a subsidy and it just infuriates him. In all fairness, it would infuriate me too if there were any truth to it. I am not clear on whether or not you agree with him that tax dollars actually go to the oil companies but if you do not, we do not have much of a debate, lol.

Either way, I will continue. You gave several definitions of the word "subsidy." Some were dead on correct and some were not. That is not your fault and it was obvious that you did some research on the topic and I commend you for that. Must have been why you almost ran out of time. I like what you pointed out here: The latin stem of the word originates from the Roman term for reserve troops: subsidium, which is in turn rooted in the latin word for sit or set : sedere. So, the essence of the word's meaning is equivalent to "set aside": set aside troops, set aside money, etc. This makes perfect sense because it is money that is set aside and paid to a company. The question is, do oil companies receive money that has been set aside for them?

Tax breaks and tax write-offs are therefore defined as ordinary examples of indirect subsidy.

What is an indirect subsidy? A company either receives tax dollars or it does not. A tax break is not a subsidy. I am going to lay that to rest more later.

Since virtually every taxpayer, corporate or otherwise, benefits from some tax breaks and write-offs to some degree, the notion that Big Oil would somehow fail to receive some benefit would seem nonsensical.

This is true and that is why it is politically misleading for the politicians and other media to target oil companies and talk about their "tax breaks." Every company, large and small and every individual is allowed legal tax breaks where the shoe fits. There is nothing especially allowed and "set aside" for oil companies but if you listen to Obama, you would think otherwise. The IRS does not give them special treatment. They pay billions in taxes. That is a matter of public record.

"The president repeatedly conflates not taking even more money from oil companies through higher taxes with actual subsidies

There you have it. The president tries hard to intermingle the words "subsidy" and "tax breaks" as if they are the same thing. Not taking something is far from giving something. More on this later.

Republicans use the word subsidy to include tax breaks in any context outside of big oil.

I never said Republicans have it right either, lol!

Even Big Oil itself is willing to call some of its tax breaks subsidies. One ExxonMobil document reports, "Of the $16.6 billion spent on U.S. energy subsidies over the course of one year... oil and natural gas received about 13 percent."

Now, this I find interesting. The brainwashing is so deep on the word "subsidy," that even some document from an oil company intermingles the two? However, we must understand that one person who put one statement on a document does not have the legal authority to completely redefine a word. I don't know who wrote that document but I bet they were admonished by it from someone. When people hear a lie over and over again, it starts to sound like and become the truth. Subsidies being compared to tax breaks is one great example. Obama has been intermingling the two for years. In 2011, Exxon paid 27.3 billion in taxes. Let's say that got a literal check from the taxpayers for 16.6 billion. All that really means is that Exxon paid 27.3-16.6 = 10.7 billion in taxes. Where was the subsidy? They did not actually receive any cash for 16.6 billion because that is just a tax break but even if they had, it still did not come out of any taxpayer pockets. The government makes more from Exxon's efforts than Exxon - a lot more. Most of oil company profits are overseas so a lot of the taxes they pay are too. Overseas taxes are a tax break here because they should not have to pay taxes twice.

http://www.forbes.com...
http://money.cnn.com...

Since we have established that "subsidy" is a correct and appropriate term for such transactions, Republicans have little cause in their objection to word as it is applied to fiscal set asides for Big Oil.

I am assuming you thought I was a Republican? Anyway, I want to forever lay to bed this idea that a tax break is a subsidy and I will do that with some analogies.

Let's say you are a company with a $1,000,000 and you have already finished taking all of your tax breaks. Government gives you a real subsidy of another $1,000,000. How much do you have now? $2,000,000 correct? Now, to compare, let's say you are a company with $1,000,000. You are allowed multiple legal tax breaks totalling $1,000,000. In other words, you don't have to pay $1,000,000 in taxes! How much do you have now? Wouldn't say $1,000,000, correct? In the first scenario, you end up with $2,000,000. In the second scenario, you end up with $1,000,000. To figure out if there is a difference between a subsidy and a tax break, all you have to do is ask yourself the following million dollar question (no pun intended): Is $1,000,000 the same as $2,000,000? If it is, then a tax break and a subsidy indeed are the same thing. If not...

Let's do another one. You have a company with $1,000,000. The IRS contacts you and says you owe $100K in taxes. The next day, they realize they made a mistake because you did not take all of your deductions (fat chance) and call you back and say that you do not owe the $100K after all. Did your company just get richer by $100K> Some would say that you did because you "owed" the 100K but now you have been given a "subsidy/tax break" of 100K. Are you like me and find that totally senseless? How is not paying something the same as getting something?

Let me offer more proof that the American public is being mislead about the difference. Liberal websites love to keep pushing this idea that money comes out of taxpayer pockets and "subsidizes" oil companies. The Huffington Post has this article:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com...

First paragraph mentions: "my curiosity was peaked as to why some of the wealthiest oil companies in the world were being given a helping hand by the American people. "

If subsidies and tax breaks were the same thing, why would even Obama sometimes differentiates between the two? He prefers the phrase "taxpayer subsidies." Scroll to the 40 second mark of the video above:

Obama knows that if he just mentions tax breaks, something anyone can get, it won't have nearly the impact as the word "subsidy" because he is smart enough to know that many people know the difference. By calling it a subsidy, he is building an idea in your mind that money is literally coming out of taxpayer's pockets and into the hands of extremely rich companies. Is that supposed to divide people from the "evil" corporations? Absolutely. A blind man in the dark should be able to see that.

Part of the confusion comes from simple wording. Tax breaks are not given. They are allowed. Government does not "give" tax breaks. They allow them. No one gets a dollar in tax breaks. They are allowed not to have to pay those dollars due to business expenditures. If I "give" you a present, you conjure up in your mind an actual physical object maybe gift-wrapped that you can open and hold. If you hear of government "giving" subsidies to oil companies, the average person cannot help but think they are being given something as in a check in the mail. Tax breaks cannot be given. The wordage is totally incorrect. The correct word is "allowed." Tax breaks are allowed. Money that is not extracted from someone is not a subsidy. It is simply money not taken. The politicians like Obama know they can make people angry and get on their side and get re-elected if they can put an image in your mind that says tax dollars are being "given" to rich oil companies. Did it work? Of course it did. That is why so many liberal websites keep repeating that oil companies are "given" subsidies. They are not always being deceitful. They believe it because Obama says it. However, there are sites that explain the actual truth:

Check out the article: "http://www.forbes.com...

...and particularly this statement: "The truth is that the oil and gas industry receives the same kinds of tax treatments that every other manufacturing or extractive industry receives in the federal tax code."So why does Obama pick on oil companies and their mythical "subsidies?" It is obvious that it is political pandering. When you hear calls to appeal the "subsidies" that oil companies "get," what you are hearing is a call to end some of their allowable tax breaks. If that were to happen and oil companies had to pay more in taxes, who do you think will absorb that bill? The owners or those who pay at the pump? All
Oromagi

Pro

You gave several definitions of the word "subsidy." Some were dead on correct and some were not.

I gave one dictionary definition and one encyclopedic definition. Since the focus of the debate is semantic in nature, I expect a pretty well-defined argument when taking exception to the widely accepted definition of the word subsidy. I hope my opponent will take the time to explain his precise objections to Mirriam-Webster and/or Wikipedia. Of course, my opponent will need to offer a preferred alternative definition from a similarly objective source.

What is an indirect subsidy? A company either receives tax dollars or it does not. A tax break is not a subsidy.

By admitting that he doesn't know what an indirect subsidy is, my opponent's economic credibility implodes. After all, the term is found in any Economics 101 textbook and easily googled. My opponent has offered the argument that only direct subsidies should be called subsidies and that indirect subsidies should never be called subsidies, but then he admits that he has no understanding of indirect subsidies.

Encyclopedia Brittanica explains the difference between direct and indirect subsidies in this way:

"A distinction is made between direct, or visible, subsidies (such as direct payments for ship construction and airline operation), which are easy to identify and measure, and indirect, or concealed, subsidies (such as price ceilings or floors, tariffs, and tax concessions), which are difficult to identify and always difficult to measure.... Indirect subsidies arise when governments buy directly from private producers at higher-than-market prices, maintain higher prices through manipulation of markets, provide services to private enterprises at prices below the cost of providing the service, or grant special tax concessions." [1]

it is politically misleading for the politicians and other media to target oil companies and talk about their "tax breaks."

Targeting oil companies necessarily implies some political calculation. There is nothing misleading, however, about employing the word subsidy to describe tax breaks. We have seen that objective reference sources clearly define tax breaks and other Big Oil concessions as subsidy. The relative wisdom of Big Oil subsidies is not under contention in this debate.

There is nothing especially allowed and "set aside" for oil companies but if you listen to Obama, you would think otherwise. The IRS does not give them special treatment.

Flat out false. We have already seen that Big Oil enjoys multiple tax breaks customized for oil producers including Intangible Drilling Cost Deductions, Tertiary Injectants Deduction, royalty relief for Outer Continental Shelf Deepwater Oil and Gas Production, etc.

The president tries hard to intermingle the words "subsidy" and "tax breaks" as if they are the same thing.

By those definitions provided from Wikipedia, Mirriam-Webster, and Encyclopedia Brittanica, all tax breaks are subsidies. Not every subsidy is a tax break, but all tax breaks are subsidies. When the President uses the word subsidy to refer to tax breaks, he only demonstrates an understanding of the words.

I never said Republicans have it right either, lol! The brainwashing is so deep on the word "subsidy," that even some document from an oil company intermingles the two.

My opponent misses the point. I demonstrated that Republicans understand the definition of the word subsidy and use the word correctly in most contexts, but pretend the word has a different meaning whenever Big Oil is at the table. Oil executives understand the word subsidy and use it correctly when speaking to stockholders, but pretend the word has a different meaning when giving testimony before Congress. As George Orwell said, " If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought."[2] Republicans and Big Oil are not merely getting it wrong, they are demonstrating a will to corrupt the clarity of governance in exchange for cash and a "W" on the scoreboard. Another Orwell reference-


**********************

"O'Brien held up the fingers of his left hand, with the thumb concealed.

‘There are five fingers there. Do you see five fingers?’

‘Yes.’

And he did see them, for a fleeting instant, before the scenery of his mind changed. He saw five fingers, and there was no deformity.... There had been a moment — he did not know how long, thirty seconds, perhaps — of luminous certainty, when each new suggestion of O'Brien's had filled up a patch of emptiness and become absolute truth, and when two and two could have been three as easily as five, if that were what was needed." -1984 [3]

************************

If any truth is fungible, then what truth is worth fighting for? Or, as my opponent puts it, "when people hear a lie over and over again, it starts to sound like and become the truth." NOTE: Although I condemn Republicans and Big Oil in this instance, I do not mean to suggest that Republicans or Big Oil are particularly guilty in this regard. The corruption of language for influence is endemic in any place of power. Hans Christian Anderson's "The Emperor's New Clothes" is a precise allegorical critique of this same dynamic.

In 2011, Exxon paid 27.3 billion in taxes. Let's say that got a literal check from the taxpayers for 16.6 billion. All that really means is that Exxon paid 27.3-16.6 = 10.7 billion in taxes. Where was the subsidy? They did not actually receive any cash for 16.6 billion.

The correct economic term for the $16.6 billion figure is subsidy. The word subsidy does not necessarily mean that somebody gets a check. When Nero implemented bread and circuses for Rome, nobody got a check but those programs were by definition subsidies. When Finland gives a box of diapers and baby clothes to every expectant Finnish mother, nobody gets a check, but that program is still called a government subsidy. When FEMA hands out bottled water after a tornado passes, that's not a check but it is a subsidy.

You have a company with $1,000,000. The IRS contacts you and says you owe $100K in taxes. The next day, they realize they made a mistake because you did not take all of your deductions (fat chance) and call you back and say that you do not owe the $100K after all. Did your company just get richer by $100K> Some would say that you did because you "owed" the 100K but now you have been given a "subsidy/tax break" of 100K.

The 100K in deductions is correctly defined as a federal subsidy irregardless of the competence of accountants. The meaning of the word does not change just because somebody forgot to collect.

I am assuming you thought I was a Republican? Liberal websites love to keep pushing this idea ... etc.

This debate is focused on the meaning of the word subsidy. We can debate red team/blue team in some future debate.

If subsidies and tax breaks were the same thing, why would even Obama sometimes differentiates between the two?

As I explained, tax breaks and subsidies have two different meanings. Tax breaks are a subset of subsidies. All tax breaks are subsidies, not all subsidies are tax breaks. The bill Obama is talking about addresses subsidies for Big Oil, some of which are tax breaks, some of which are not. When Obama wants to call attention to tax breaks, he says "tax breaks." When he addresses subsidies in general, he says subsidies.

Obama knows that if he just mentions tax breaks, something anyone can get, it won't have nearly the impact as the word "subsidy"

The fact that Obama uses a word is not much of an argument for redefining that word. Would it help to know that every President since Nixon has supported repeal of these same subsidies and failed?

"Under our new tax proposal the oil and gas industry will be asked to pick up a larger share of the national tax burden. By eliminating this special preference, we'll go a long way toward ensuring that those that earn their wealth in the oil industry will be subject to the same taxes as the rest of us. This is only fair. " -Ronald Reagan [4]

“I will tell you with $55 oil we don’t need incentives to the oil and gas companies to explore. There are plenty of incentives. What we need is to put a strategy in place that will help this country over time become less dependent.”
-George W. Bush [5]

Even John Boehner and Paul Ryan have expressed support for repealing some subsidies. I bring this up not to take sides on the issue, but to demonstrate that talking about Big Oil subsidies is not a new or liberal notion. I'm sure that the President is as partisan and clever in his word choices as any politician, but the mere use of the word subsidy is not an Obama conspiracy.

The truth is that the oil and gas industry receives the same kinds of tax treatments that every other manufacturing or extractive industry receives in the federal tax code.

Not true, but also not relevant. Whether the current tax code is fair has no bearing on the definition of the word subsidy.

Tax breaks are not given. They are allowed....Tax breaks cannot be given. The wordage is totally incorrect.

Wow, that's a lot of creepy doubletalk. "I'm not giving the dog this biscuit, I'm allowing the dog to have this biscuit. If I gave the dog this biscuit people would think I was spoiling him, so I'm allowing the dog this biscuit so people will understand that biscuits are good for dogs....See how different that is?" Nope, can't say that I do. The dog won't give a damn and the biscuit is still a subsidy.

[1] http://www.britannica.com...
[2] https://www.mtholyoke.edu...
[3] http://orwell.ru...
[4] http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu...
[5] http://thinkprogress.org...

Debate Round No. 2
brett.winstead

Con

When I said:

What is an indirect subsidy? A company either receives tax dollars or it does not. A tax break is not a subsidy.

...you said: By admitting that he doesn't know what an indirect subsidy is, my opponent's economic credibility implodes.

I am afraid you missed the entire point of the question. It was more of a rhetorical question for anyone to ask themselves because an indirect subsidy is very close to being an oxymoron. A subsidy, by the most common and normal definition is:

1. a direct financial aid furnished by a government, as to a private commercial enterprise, an individual, or another government.
2. any grant or contribution of money.

This is from thefreedictionary.com. Notice number one says "direct financial aid." There is nothing in the definition that even implies indirect because that would mean the opposite of direct. This is why I am saying that many dictionaries and politicians and yourself simply have it wrong. What was annoying was that you tried to subtly imply that I am too stupid to Google the definition of an indirect subsidy but instead was asking you to educate me. That was not the case. I was not "admitting" that I did not know the definition of an indirect subsidy. If a subsidy is a grant of some kind of payment, how can that be indirect? Money either is transferred or it is not. If we stick to that one premise as to whether or not money is transferred to the oil companies or not, this debate will go a lot smoother.

I said: There is nothing especially allowed and "set aside" for oil companies but if you listen to Obama, you would think otherwise. The IRS does not give them special treatment.

Flat out false. We have already seen that Big Oil enjoys multiple tax breaks customized for oil producers including Intangible Drilling Cost Deductions, Tertiary Injectants Deduction, royalty relief for Outer Continental Shelf Deepwater Oil and Gas Production, etc.

Okay, what I meant was, there are no taxpayer dollars set aside for oil companies. Sure, there are tax breaks for oil companies for the things you mention and they are unique to oil companies but that only makes sense. Walmart does not have tax breaks for drilling costs...because they don't drill for oil. Any big industry could have a unique "tax break" set aside for them.

The correct economic term for the $16.6 billion figure is subsidy. The word subsidy does not necessarily mean that somebody gets a check.

But that is precisely what everyone thinks. That is why Obama uses the phrase "taxpayer subsidies." Why do you think he throws in the word "taxpayer" along with subsidies? It is extremely obvious. He is working overtime to implant the idea that money comes out of your paycheck and goes to Exxon. My friend, who inspired me to start this debate, thinks exactly that. He spends his time at websites (usually leftist) that say exactly what politicians want them to think:

Here is a white house link:

http://www.whitehouse.gov...

...that says in the first paragraph in regard to the subsidies "which cost the American taxpayers billions of dollars each year." It does not cost the taxpayers one penny when oil companies pay less in taxes. That is not how taxes are collected. They don't decide to raise X amount of dollars where if oil companies pay less, we pay more. They tax on percentage of incomes.

Another from http://www.nytimes.com...
H

"There is no reason for these corporations to shortchange the American taxpayer."

And one I mentioned from http://www.huffingtonpost.com...

"why some of the wealthiest oil companies in the world were being given a helping hand by the American people. "

Here: http://www.momscleanairforce.org...

"The question remains as to why our dollars are going to companies that are reaping billions in profits,"

http://www.motherjones.com...

says right in the sub-headline: "One of America's most profitable industries banks billions in subsidies"

How are they banking billions in subsidies? They earn money and are allowed to keep more of it. I am sorry but who earned that money? Why shouldn't they be allowed to keep more of it instead of giving it to a government that did not so much as lift a finger to earn it and already make more than the oil companies do on a gallon of gas. Okay, getting off topic.

There is simply no question that most people think tax dollars go to oil companies when the premise of this debate is that that is not the case. This article is a great explanation of the truth of the matter.

http://www.forbes.com...

It is ridiculous that people think we the people would be so much better off financially if these oil companies did not receive these "special" tax breaks. Let's run the numbers. According to:

http://demonocracy.info...

...our thrify governement spends about 10 billion dollars a day. Since the oil companies combined are allowed about 12 billion a year in tax breaks, let's say the government takes that money too. That is enough money to run the federal government for slightly more than one day. Sound like a plan?

This debate is focused on the meaning of the word subsidy.

It was not supposed to be. It is supposed to be about the nonexistence of handouts to the oil companies.

I'm sure that the President is as partisan and clever in his word choices as any politician, but the mere use of the word subsidy is not an Obama conspiracy.

I did not say it was just an Obama conspiracy. It does not make him less guilty just because others before him have said the same stuff.

Tax breaks are not given. They are allowed....Tax breaks cannot be given. The wordage is totally incorrect.

Wow, that's a lot of creepy doubletalk. "I'm not giving the dog this biscuit, I'm allowing the dog to have this biscuit. If I gave the dog this biscuit people would think I was spoiling him, so I'm allowing the dog this biscuit so people will understand that biscuits are good for dogs....See how different that is?" Nope, can't say that I do. The dog won't give a damn and the biscuit is still a subsidy.

Creepy doubletalk? I completely demonstrated the difference between a tax break and a subsidy by the $1,000,000/2,000,000 analogy which you did not even attempt to refute. Now I will refute your dog biscuit analogy. If a dog is given a biscuit, he has a biscuit just like if you were given $100, you have $100. If the dog is allowed to keep a biscuit that he already has, he is not being given anything just like if you are allowe to keep $100 that you already have, you are not being given anything. However, the way you worded it, you made it sound like you allowing him to have a biscuit that he already had was the same as you giving him one. The oil companies earn their original money. They are not "allowed" their money like you tried to allow your dog to have a biscuit. They already had made their money. You conveniently left this out for your analogy. To hold any credibility, your dog starts off with a biscuit that he already had but you did not show that. You simply compared giving to allowing as the same thing and in your dog's case, it would be except a proper analogy starts with your dog already having a biscuit just like the oil companies already have made their money. Until you can demonstrate that 1,000,000 is the same as 2,000,000 dollars, a tax break and subsidy will never be the same thing.

Let me reiterate so we can stick to the subject. The definition of subsidy is not up for debate here. I don't care how many dictionaries say what, it is fundamentally flawed to say that a subsidy can be both a direct and indirect payment. That is like saying up can be a little bit down or black can be a little bit white. The real question is regardless of the definition of "subsidy," do you believe that taxpayers fund (those 12 billion dollars) the oil companies, as so many people believe? It comes down to whether or not money is being transferred out of the pockets of taxpayers and into the pockets of oil companies.
Oromagi

Pro








It was more of a rhetorical question for anyone to ask themselves because an indirect subsidy is very close to being an oxymoron.
If a subsidy is a grant of some kind of payment, how can that be indirect? Money either is transferred or it is not.


Well, my opponent has demonstrated a significant lack of understanding regarding indirect subsidies. When asked the question "what is it,?" I assumed he was looking for information. Perhaps, I should have realized my opponent is not looking to expand his perspective on the subject, preferring instead to instruct all those ignorant Senators and economists and CEOs and encyclopaedists and US presidents about how they've all got the definition of subsidy wrong. The idea of an indirect subsidy is neither self-contradictory nor is it terribly difficult to grasp. Say my opponent owes me $20. If he gives me $20 (or $5 or $30 for that matter) that's a direct subsidy. If my opponent says, "tell you what, why don't I cook you dinner and we'll call it even," that's an indirect subsidy.


A subsidy, by the most common and normal definition is:

1. a direct financial aid furnished by a government, as to a private commercial enterprise, an individual, or another government.
2. any grant or contribution of money.

This is from thefreedictionary.com. Notice number one says "direct financial aid." There is nothing in the definition that even implies indirect because that would mean the opposite of direct. This is why I am saying that many dictionaries and politicians and yourself simply have it wrong.

Including, apparently, his own source material. My opponent has failed to read the second definition he cut & paste into his own argument- "Any grant or contribution of money" -clearly a definition so inclusive that tax breaks are implied. Here's the link to my opponent's citation (freedictionary.com is just a survey of other dictionary definitions).

http://www.thefreedictionary.com...

If we confine ourselves to my opponent's source, we find 5 definitions of the word subsidy that necessarily include financial aid like tax breaks and tax deductions:

*Monetary assistance granted by a government to a person or group in support of an enterprise regarded as being in the public interest. (American Heritage Dictionary)
*Financial assistance given by one person or government to another. (American Heritage Dictionary)
*a financial aid supplied by a government, as to industry, for reasons of public welfare, the balance of payments, etc. (Collins English Dictionary)
*any monetary contribution, grant, or aid (Collins English Dictionary)
*any grant or contribution of money. (Random House Kernerman Webster College Dictionary)

(RE: The correct economic term for the $16.6 billion figure is subsidy. The word subsidy does not necessarily mean that somebody gets a check.) But that is precisely what everyone thinks.

I know. That is how words get their meanings. When everybody thinks that a word has a particular meaning, then that word has that particular meaning. The word "jazz" started out as a slang word for sperm, used in the same way that "jism" or "jizz" is today. "Jazz music" came into to use referring to the black music played in "jazz" houses or honky-tonks and whorehouses up and down the Mississippi River. Nowadays, people only think of "jazz" in reference to music and the original meaning has been left behind. Words mean what every thinks they mean. When my opponent states that "everybody thinks" that the definition of the word subsidy includes tax breaks, he concedes the central point of our debate.

That is why Obama uses the phrase "taxpayer subsidies." Why do you think he throws in the word "taxpayer" along with subsidies? It is extremely obvious. He is working overtime to implant the idea that money comes out of your paycheck and goes to Exxon.

Still not an Obama conspiracy. "Taxpayer subsidies" is a common phrase in American politics, generally used when arguing against a particular subsidy. Here's a conservative blog using the phrase to oppose allowing Kentucky teachers days off for union activity, titled "Unions' Taxpayer Subsidized Activity." [1] Here's a Bloomberg editorial that characterizes the capacity of big banks to borrow money at lower interest rates than small banks titled "Big Banks Can't Hide Their Taxpayer Subsidy." [2] NOTE: here are two more examples of conservative media using the word subsidy to describe government benefits that do not involve receiving a check. Days off and lower interest rates are also commonly defined as subsidies.


(RE: This debate is focused on the meaning of the word subsidy.) It was not supposed to be. It is supposed to be about the nonexistence of handouts to the oil companies

The resolution of the debate is : "Big Oil companies actually receive tax subsidies." My opponent has already agreed that Big Oil receives concessions like tax breaks and depreciation reductions: "
There are tax breaks for oil companies for the things you mention" and I have sufficiently shown that the definition of the word subsidy ordinarily includes such concessions. Therefore, my opponent's resolution stands refuted.

Throwing out a new descriptor like "handouts" in Round3 can't be allowed, since that would require a new set of definitions and assumptions. Look at the comments section of this debate. User Numidious included an ordinary definition of the word subsidy, but rejected the debate because beyond the definition of the word, the debate was not controversial. My opponent's response was "
You are exactly the kind of person who I want to debate - someone who thinks it is a given that oil companies receive subsidies." So the definition of the word was definitely my opponent's original focus. The next three commenters all agreed that this would be a semantic debate revolving around the word subsidy.

I completely demonstrated the difference between a tax break and a subsidy by the $1,000,000/2,000,000 analogy which you did not even attempt to refute. Now I will refute your dog biscuit analogy

I had just finished pointing out that correct term for $16.6 billion figure in the Exxon example was subsidy and that the correct term for the $100K figure in the bad accountant example was also subsidy. It seemed redundant to also point out that the correct term for the $1 million figure in the $1million/$2million example (not analogy) was also subsidy. Unfortunately, my opponent missed the point so let's belabor the obvious. If a company receives a $1million government grant, the correct term for that $1million is subsidy. If a company receives $1million in tax breaks the correct term for that $1million is subsidy. My opponent wishes to imply by the second example that a subsidy has no value since the company starts and ends with $1million. However, in the absence of government subsidies, the second company would be worth $0. Therefore both subsidies in both examples have a real value of $1million.

The dog and biscuit analogy was a critique of my opponent's bewildering allow/not give semantics. Using ordinary language, tax breaks are given. It follows that tax breaks are also allowed. But then creating some false distinction between these two dynamics and suggesting that the false distinction somehow informs the definition of subsidy smacks of the Orwellian. It's like saying "there are dogs and then there are pooches- dogs are fine, but I really can't stand pooches." My opponent makes a distinction without a difference and makes little headway with his second attempt. If a dog is allowed a biscuit that biscuit is an owner subsidy. If an owner gives his dog a biscuit, but his dog regurgitates half the biscuit on his owner's shoe, that upchuck is a dog subsidy. If the dog baked his own biscuits, better put that pooch on David Letterman.

Look, I think my opponent's intentions are pretty clear at this point. He would like to instigate a debate called "Big Oil Should Continue to Receive Government Subsidies." Unfortunately for my opponent, subsidies for the very wealthiest corporations are unpopular. Without taking a position on Big Oil subsidies myself, I think it can be fairly said that most people ascribe to Ronald Reagan's conventional wisdom:

"If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving subsidize it." [3]

In pursuit of a win on an unpopular subject, my opponent has followed the Republicans' lead in an effort to pretend that the word subsidy does not apply in the context of Big Oil. I suppose the reasoning is that if some kind of false dichotomy can be developed, voters will be less certain in their opposition to large concessions to Big Oil. The problem with this tactic is that the debate has moved from public policy (should we Americans endorse some plan) to a statement of bald anti-fact (this word does not mean what dictionaries say it means). I think there are good arguments to be made on both sides of the policy debate, essentially another supply-side vs Keynesian conflict. I do not think there are any good arguments in support of re-defining a word for political gain.



If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com...



If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com...

[1] http://www.realclearpolicy.com...
[2] http://www.bloomberg.com...
[3] http://www.brainyquote.com...






Debate Round No. 3
brett.winstead

Con

Including, apparently, his own source material. My opponent has failed to read the second definition he cut & paste into his own argument- "Any grant or contribution of money" -clearly a definition so inclusive that tax breaks are implied.

Sir, a grant or contribution of money is not a tax break. There cannot be a simpler way of putting it. A grant or contribution of $100 to you means you have $100 more than you had. A tax break of any amount allowed to you is not in any way, shape or form a transfer of money to you. You are not one penny richer because of a tax break. You are simply not a penny poorer. How is it that you cannot understand the difference between having $100 handed to you and not having $100 taken from you? I fail to understand why this is a difficult concept but evidently, for a lot of people, it is. I suppose for all the people that cannot understand the difference, you will get their vote if anyone reads this debate.

When my opponent states that "everybody thinks" that the definition of the word subsidy includes tax breaks, he concedes the central point of our debate.

It is one thing to think that a tax break is a subsidy and if you or anyone wants to define it that way, fine. I cannot stop you. However, the crux of the matter is is that numerous people literally think that when an oil company gets a tax break/subsidy, money is transferred from the pockets of taxpayers to the fat bank accounts of the oil companies. This is 100% false.

I have stated repeatedly to no avail that this debate is not about the definition of subsidy. It is abundantly clear that there are numerous definitions of the word itself. I have tried 11 different ways from Thursday to say that this debate, using the classical and most sensical definition of a subsidy which is a grant, is about whether or not oil companies receive a transfer of wealth from taxpayer to them. For some reason, I cannot get you to take a stand on that at all or to even address that. You are so focused on the headline of the debate, you are missing the point.

When Obama uses the term "taxpayer subsidies," let me demonstrate the deception in his words. I have already shown proof from several website links that many people think they are literally getting money from us taxpayers. That is not in dispute. The question is why does Obama (and no, he is not alone) call a tax break a "taxpayer subsidy?" Since a subsidy, as you and some dictionaries define it is a type of tax break, let's do some word substitution. Instead of Obama calling them "taxpayer subsidies", why does he not call them "taxpayer tax breaks" since a tax break is a kind of subsidy? No, he won't call it that because that does not makes sense and more importantly, there is no such thing! Taxpayers do not give tax breaks to oil companies but each time he says "taxpayer subsides," he knows that he is putting an image in your mind that money is going from taxpayers to oil companies and "we want to end those subsidies. We want to end the people giving a helping hand to oil companies and making the rich richer." That is his message and to say it has worked would be an understatement.

If your definition of a subsidy is truly nothing more than a tax break in some cases, why does he call them "taxpayer" subsidies"? Why not call them what you say they actually are - "government subsidies" or "government tax breaks." No money is being transferred from taxpayers but he calls it that to instill the idea in the public's mind a lie that money is leaving their pockets for the oil company's pockets. They are simply being allowed to keep some of what they earned. It is so exhausting for people who claim to love freedom to think that it is wrong for that to be allowed.
Oromagi

Pro

a grant or contribution of money is not a tax break.

grant transitive verb \G2;grant\

: to agree to do, give, or allow (something asked for or hoped for)

: to give (something) legally or formally [1]

Not every grant is a tax break, but every tax break is by definition a grant (and transitive to my opponent's definition of subsidy, a subsidy).

con·trib·ute verb \kən-G2;tri-byət, -(G6;)byüt also & especially before -ed or -ing -G2;tri-bət; chiefly British also G2;kän-trə-G6;byüt\

: to give (something, such as money, goods, or time) to a person, group, cause, or organization [2]

Not every contribution is a tax break, but every tax break is by definition a contribution (and transitive to my opponents definition of subsidy, a subsidy).

A grant or contribution of $100 to you means you have $100 more than you had. A tax break of any amount allowed to you is not in any way, shape or form a transfer of money to you.

People receive tax return checks all the time, often as a result of tax breaks. A tax break must be a transfer of money because the result is tangible value.

You are not one penny richer because of a tax break. You are simply not a penny poorer.

If that were true, why would anybody spend grueling hours filling out tax forms to qualify for tax breaks? Why would anybody pay an accountant? Tax breaks have value.

How is it that you cannot understand the difference between having $100 handed to you and not having $100 taken from you? I fail to understand why this is a difficult concept but evidently, for a lot of people, it is.

The point is that the difference my opponent describes is not relevant to the dynamic under discussion.

Tax is not money is that is taken from us. Tax is money owed in exchange for government service. Say government charges a $100 highway maintenance tax but also encourages energy efficiency with a $10 subsidy for hybrid cars. That $10 subsidy has real value. Now, a Prius owner can afford a green chile burger and a pint of stout. The $90 is a taxpayer subsidy- money paid to help the government to continue to function. The $10 is a government subsidy- money paid to encourage energy efficiency. The anti-Prius lobby might oppose the subsidy by crying out about "taxpayer subsidized burgers and beer." It may even be true from a limited perspective. Talking about whether the $10 was taken or given or allowed is silly. Any civil transaction may be viewed as given or taken or allowed depending depending on your political perspective regarding the transaction.


I suppose for all the people that cannot understand the difference, you will get their vote if anyone reads this debate.

Well, let's hope so.

It is one thing to think that a tax break is a subsidy and if you or anyone wants to define it that way, fine. I cannot stop you.

I'm more interested in preserving the objective definition of the word.

However, the crux of the matter is is that numerous people literally think that when an oil company gets a tax break/subsidy, money is transferred from the pockets of taxpayers to the fat bank accounts of the oil companies. This is 100% false.

I have stated repeatedly to no avail that this debate is not about the definition of subsidy. It is abundantly clear that there are numerous definitions of the word itself. I have tried 11 different ways from Thursday to say that this debate, using the classical and most sensical definition of a subsidy which is a grant, is about whether or not oil companies receive a transfer of wealth from taxpayer to them. For some reason, I cannot get you to take a stand on that at all or to even address that. You are so focused on the headline of the debate, you are missing the point.

When Obama uses the term "taxpayer subsidies," let me demonstrate the deception in his words. I have already shown proof from several website links that many people think they are literally getting money from us taxpayers. That is not in dispute. The question is why does Obama (and no, he is not alone) call a tax break a "taxpayer subsidy?" Since a subsidy, as you and some dictionaries define it is a type of tax break, let's do some word substitution. Instead of Obama calling them "taxpayer subsidies", why does he not call them "taxpayer tax breaks" since a tax break is a kind of subsidy? No, he won't call it that because that does not makes sense and more importantly, there is no such thing!

If your definition of a subsidy is truly nothing more than a tax break in some cases, why does he call them "taxpayer" subsidies"? Why not call them what you say they actually are - "government subsidies" or "government tax breaks." No money is being transferred from taxpayers but he calls it that to instill the idea in the public's mind a lie that money is leaving their pockets for the oil company's pockets.

No citizen of a large democracy feels satisfaction with every government policy. Certainly no citizen is satisfied with every government subsidy, since subsidies can be found on every degree of the political spectrum. Pro-lifers resent subsidies to women's health clinics. Vegans resent subsidies to slaughterhouses. Since all government taxpayer money is fungible, any and all taxes pay for any and every government initiative in a limited sense. Politicians love to incite opposition to a program by giving voice to this limited perspective. Pro-lifers challenge every dollar spent on women's health with the phrase "taxpayer funded abortion," even though doctors, like Big Oil, pay more money than they get out.

My opponent supports Big Oil subsidies and wants them to continue. Rather than formulate arguments against the predictable "taxpayer subsidy" argument, my opponent wants to cry foul and administer a prophylactic rewrite of the dictionary. Perhaps my opponent lacks confidence in the pro-subsidy position, perhaps not. Either way, taking on the definition of the word subsidy is a distraction that's all downside. The "taxpayer subsidy" argument shows up in some variation on both sides of just about every issue across the political landscape. My opponent does not argue against the political tactic itself, he only singles out the issue of Big Oil, constructs some conspiracy from the commonplace uses of the word subsidy, and demands that we toss all established meaning and precedent so that defending Big Oil might be a little less necessary.

Taxpayers do not give tax breaks to oil companies

Of course we do. We are a government of the people, by the people, for the people. Ultimately, the power behind and responsibility for every government concession rests with the people.

We want to end the people giving a helping hand to oil companies and making the rich richer." That is his message and to say it has worked would be an understatement.

As I stated before, every president since Nixon has worked to abolish some of these antiquated subsidies without success. Some variation of repeal of Big Oil tax has come before Congress in each of the last three years and been voted down. In terms of results, I would hardly say that Obama's tactic has been effective. Since the election of GW Bush in 2000, Big Oil has enjoyed deregulation and spectacular increases in wealth on a scale unmatched since the Robber Barons of the 1880s. It is interesting that supporters of Big Oil subsidies consistently feel so put upon, reminiscent of the delusional self-pitying of the "War on Christmas" folks. Is it really so unrealistic that a government for the people should pause to consider why we are not sharing in the success of those corporations for which we build infrastructure, defend property, and extensively subsidize?

[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com...
[2] http://www.merriam-webster.com...

Debate Round No. 4
brett.winstead

Con

I am just not getting through to you, am I? I think what we have here is a debate based on a faulty foundation. You said:

People receive tax return checks all the time, often as a result of tax breaks. A tax break must be a transfer of money because the result is tangible value.

That is not the kind of tax breaks we are talking about. What you refer to is a tax refund. A tax break is not being required to pay what a government SAYS you should pay. There is a monster difference.

I said "You are not one penny richer because of a tax break. You are simply not a penny poorer."

If that were true, why would anybody spend grueling hours filling out tax forms to qualify for tax breaks? Why would anybody pay an accountant? Tax breaks have value.

?? By filling out forms to get tax breaks, you are avoiding getting poorer. You are not getting a check.

Tax is not money is that is taken from us.

Wow! Did you really say that or was that a series of typos all lined up? I cannot even begin to imagine that anyone could actually believe that. Tax is not taken from us? Why don't you try this experiment: Call the IRS and say that you do not believe they will take your money. Tell them from now on that you are going to keep every penny you earn because you don't believe in this idea that taxes are taken from us. If you are employed, you also tell them that you will take that the necessary steps are taken to stop the taxes coming from your paycheck. Then wait and see what they say. Please make that call and tell us what they said.

Tax is money owed in exchange for government service.

No, some taxes are owed in exchange for government service. Income taxes, which are personal property, are taken regardless of whether one uses any government service. If I pay a gasoline tax and license plate fees in exchange for getting to use the roads, that is all good and fine. I have a choice to pay those based on whether or not I use that but an income tax is totally different. It is nothing more than confiscation. What government does with that confiscated money is not important. It does not matter if they use it greatly or waste it totally. The issue is how they obtained it. Most people cannot understand that.

When you equate tax subsidies with tax breaks, you said they are the same because the oil companies "owe" the money. Let's talk about the word "owe." When government says oil companies "owe" x amount of dollars, where do they arrive at this figure? They simply decide it. The oil companies did not get together and say "we are the people and we should decide what we want to pay." That is not how it works and I am sure you agree. The government simply pulls numbers out of the air and says "you owe us...but out of the goodness of our hearts, we are going to give you a "tax break" so you can start now with the "thank yours."

I said "Taxpayers do not give tax breaks to oil companies"

You said: Of course we do. We are a government of the people, by the people, for the people.

This is the foundation misunderstanding I spoke of earlier. If we had a government of, by and for the people, the oil companies represent the people too, right? Do governments have the right to do something that we the people do not have when it comes to things that I am about to explain?

Let's say you and a handful of other people decide to start your own country on your own island. You get all moved in and you pass laws. One of them is a law against stealing. Everyone agrees and so it becomes the law of the land. No people on the island can steal without penalty. One day you have a vote and everybody but one person wants to build a nice park. The one dissenter (Bob) has no interest in the park. You cannot legally just take his money so you and the others decide to get together and form a governing body. What you all say goes and that is the end of it. You answer to no one. You go to Bob and tell him he is being taxed at X amount for the park. Bob starts to squawk about it because he has not interest in the park even after he is being told it is for the "common good." After Bob refuses to pay, you have no choice. You start proceedings to take Bob's possessions in order for him to pay. Here is the kicker: You are saying that taxes are not taken but you are not in Bob's shoes. You are suggesting that Bob "owes" the money to the building of the park as if he had some kind of debt. This is not an example of a government run of, by and for the people. This is an example of legal plunder. In a free society run by the people, the people have equal rights. The majority, who want a park, do not rule. A famous quote goes like this: A democracy is two wolves and a lamb discussing what is for dinner. This is a democracy that you seem to agree with. In a republic, the lamb is afforded the same rights to life, liberty and property that the wolves have. If an individual on the island has no rights to take property from someone, it does not suddenly become moral and legal to gather up a group and do what he cannot legally do individually.

Is it really so unrealistic that a government for the people should pause to consider why we are not sharing in the success of those corporations for which we build infrastructure, defend property, and extensively subsidize?

Another foundational error that you have is that taxpayers ultimately fund oil companies with the subsidies. They are already paying billions and you want to take credit for "subsidizing" them? This is just strange. Your thinking is that if oil companies get tax breaks, we the people are making up the difference. That is fundamentally incorrect to the core. That is actually how taxes are supposed to be collected - by apportionment. In studying tax history, you will learn that governments are supposed to figure out what they need to raise in order to function but that is not what has been going on for many years. Our government taxes us solely on percentages. Without looking it up, let's say their budget is 5 trillion per year. You make 100 trillion and you are in a 50% tax bracket. You "owe" 50 trillion dollars right? But the government only needs 5 trillion so are they going to tell you that you do not need to pay the other 45 trillion because they have enough? No, they will not do that. They will take all 50 trillion and find ways to spend it. I see people all the time on Internet blogs talk about xyz corporation getting some tax break that we the people have to make up for. Just fundamentally wrong.

To sum up, no oil company receives money from taxpayers. There is no evidence in this universe that suggests otherwise. They are allowed tax breaks just as every man, woman, child, dog and cat are allowed to keep some or all of what they have.
Oromagi

Pro

What you refer to is a tax refund. A tax break is not being required to pay what a government SAYS you should pay. There is a monster difference

My argument was that tax breaks have value, a point my opponent wishes to occlude.

By filling out forms to get tax breaks, you are avoiding getting poorer. You are not getting a check.

A backwards way of conceding that tax breaks have value. "Avoiding getting poorer" is a silly euphemism for the acquisition and maintenance of wealth.

Call the IRS and say that you do not believe they will take your money, etc. Income taxes, which are personal property, are taken regardless of whether one uses any government service. It is nothing more than confiscation.

Taxes are money owed in exchange for the benefits of governments in the same way that a gas bill is money owed in exchange for the benefit of fuel. In both cases there are consequences for non-payment. You can opt out of citizenship just as you can opt out driving a car or heating your house, every options has its consequences and benefits. There's no such thing as a property owner who does not benefit from government service. Even the most remote Alaskan hermit benefits significantly from civil defense, forestry services, mail delivery, road maintenance, fire protection, law enforcement, etc. In truth, that hermit's remoteness makes those services far more expensive; it is often the case that the very people who view tax as confiscatory are the people who enjoy a disproportionate benefit.

If we had a government of, by and for the people, the oil companies represent the people too, right?

Only in the sense that some oil company employees are also US citizens. Corporations are legal entities which represent the interests of shareholders, a very different set of rights and responsibilities than US citizens, and often in direct conflict with American interests. We don't have the time or space to document many of these conflicts, but just a few examples regarding the largest Big Oil interest, ExxonMobil.

*In the first half of the 20th century, ExxonMobil (then Standard Oil of New Jersey) was the principle patent-holder and manufacturer of ethyl-leaded gasoline, a neurotoxin which even at low levels of exposure has been proven to cause lower IQ in children and anti-social behavior in adults. Although the health risks of leaded oil became apparent when a couple of dozen of plant employees went insane and quickly died, Standard Oil lobbied the government to ignore the dangers and either bought out or actively threatened scientists who warned of the toxicity of leaded gasoline. A 1985 EPA study estimated that as many as 5,000 Americans died annually from lead-related heart disease prior to the country's lead phase out. According to a 1988 report to Congress on childhood lead poisoning in America by the government's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, one can estimate that the blood-lead levels of up to 2 million children were reduced every year to below toxic levels between 1970 and 1987 as leaded gasoline use was reduced. From that report and elsewhere, one can conservatively estimate that a total of about 68 million young children had toxic exposures to lead from gasoline from 1927 to 1987.[1] Although less toxic anti-knock agents were available, Exxon knowingly contributed to the lowered IQ and delinquent behavior of generations of Americans because the patented agent was more profitable.

*In 1938, leaded oil was an essential fuel for the German Luftwaffe and Germany had none. Since I.G. Farben (the corporation which constructed Auschwitz with Jewish slaves) was the largest stockholder after Rockefeller, Exxon loaned Germany the hundreds of tons of leaded oil required to fuel the invasions of Czechoslovakia, Poland, and France, and the bombing of Britain. After Britain complained, Exxon moved the registry of its oil tankers to Panama so that it could continue to ship the Nazis this essential fuel until Exxon was brought up under "Trading with the Enemy" charges in March 1942. Exxon pled no contest and paid a $5000 fine. [3]

*ExxonMobil is also a principle force in climate-change denial. A 2009 investigation showed that ExxonMobil was behind the phony ClimateGate controversy. [4] A 2011 study of 900 anti-climate change studies determined that 9 out of 10 researchers were funded in part or in whole by ExxonMobil. [5]

So, to the extent that Big Oil is content to promote and profit from existential threats to American citizens, it may not be fairly said that Big Oil represents America or even clearly demonstrates loyalty to US interests.

RE: Bob and the park on the island nation. In a free society run by the people, the people have equal rights. The majority, who want a park, do not rule.

Such baloney. There is not and never has been a society where Bob would have the option of not paying for a share of the park. A totalitarian island would not care much for Bob's opinion. A communist or anarchist island would require Bob to throw most or all of his income into the community chest. On a democratic island, at least, Bob has a right to dissent and the portion of income devoted to the park is relatively limited. But Bob can't pick and choose which projects he wishes to support. Every citizen in a democracy ends up contributing to government projects they don't like, that's one of the challenges of citizenship. A society where individuals pick and choose which community projects they fund is by definition a society in collapse. If a democracy is two wolves and a lamb discussing dinner, then most other forms of government are one wolf, two lambs, and no discussion. Bob should quit his whining and instead be grateful his island is one of the few with laws and public meetings about parks and freedom to dissent.

But the government only needs 5 trillion so are they going to tell you that you do not need to pay the other 45 trillion because they have enough? No, they will not do that. They will take all 50 trillion and find ways to spend it.

False. In fact, governments sometimes even cut taxes. Last year, in terms of percentage of GDP, federal tax receipts for the last 4 years have been at their lowest since 1943. [6] In inflation adjusted terms, we currently pay the lowest taxes of the last two generations of Americans.





Another foundational error that you have is that taxpayers ultimately fund oil companies with the subsidies.

Which brings us back to our thesis: Big Oil companies receive federal tax subsidies. To the extent that my opponent has conceded that Big Oil receives tax exemptions and deductibles, he has already conceded the debate. Although my opponent would prefer that tax breaks not be called "subsidies," I have shown using objective sources that tax breaks are commonly referred to as subsidies. Therefore, much of the debate has hinged on the definition of the word subsidy. I think we have to prefer the objectivity of sources like Mirriam-Webster and Wikipedia to the new definition of subsidy offered by Big Oil and their spokespeople in Republican media like Steve Forbes' magazine.

Some oil subsidies are enjoyed in common with other large enterprises. Many federal subsidies are unique to the oil industry and of these, many date back a century to a time when oil exploration was far riskier and the demand uncertain.

There are additional subsidies that we won't get a chanc to consider: subsidies that don't appear on company ledgers and are difficult to track. Only 7% of the world's oil stock is found in territories that allow private companies free access to oil, so oil is more than a commodity, it is a primary international interest. For as long as oil has been manufactured, it has been a cause for war and a spoil of war. When US taxpayers pay subsidies to Egypt, Big Oil receives the benefit of prioritized access to the Suez Canal: a benefit for which Big Oil receives no bill. Likewise, US taxpayers pay billions each year to maintain forces overseas and US defense forces protect Big Oil interests to a disproportionate degree. When the US navy takes action against Somali or Yemeni pirates, Big Oil is the primary beneficiary, but receives no bill. When US satellites supply information to free Western hostages taken from Libyan oil refineries, Big Oil receives no bill.
Further, we have not considered the cost of petrol waste and environmental damage. Further, we have not calculated the costs of climate change.

My opponent has complained that the word subsidy is used to project Big Oil tax breaks in a negative light. I'll agree that the word subsidy has political connotation, but there is nothing unique about the word's usage in arguments against Big Oil. Certainly, the definition of the word need not be changed for the exclusive benefit of Big Oil. My opponent proceeded into a number of semantic excursions that offered no compelling argument that might disprove Big Oil subsidies or convince English-speakers to change the word's meaning.

Finally, my opponent shifted the argument away from Big Oil subsidisation to his concerns that subsidies might be viewed as taxpayer funds. I have countered that to the extent that all federal revenue is fungible, it is not unreasonable to characterize any tax income of any size as funding any government initiative to some degree, including subsidies.
Once we set aside politics and semantics, any reasonable person must conclude that Big Oil does receive federal subsidies. My thesis stands proven.
VOTE PRO!


[1] http://www.rachel.org...
[2] http://www.thenation.com...

[3] http://web.mit.edu...
[4] http://thinkprogress.org...
[5] http://www.zmescience.com...
[6] http://www.taxpolicycenter.org...

Debate Round No. 5
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by brett.winstead 3 years ago
brett.winstead
Crap. I am not sure what happened but I thought I had your comments in italics. I did not proofread closely enough. I hope any readers can figure out the difference.
Posted by Watchemoket 3 years ago
Watchemoket
Before I can intelligently decide whether to accept the challenge, it is necessary that I know what definition of the central term ("subsidy") is to be used. In the absence of such a 'ground rule' I'm afraid that Yraelz is absolutely correct in stating that any debate without an agreed definition of 'subsidy' would become a game of semantics rather than a debate.
Posted by EndarkenedRationalist 3 years ago
EndarkenedRationalist
I'd say Numidious is right. Even if tax breaks and/or grants don't count as subsidies, there is plenty of evidence for oil companies receiving actual subsidies.
Posted by Yraelz 3 years ago
Yraelz
This debate will come down to a semantic argument regarding 'subsidy'. The winner is going to be whoever can more convincingly back their definition.
Posted by brett.winstead 3 years ago
brett.winstead
You are exactly the kind of person who I want to debate - someone who thinks it is a given that oil companies receive subsidies. They do not. Take the debate if you think otherwise.
Posted by Numidious 3 years ago
Numidious
http://priceofoil.org...

I'm afraid the US does give oil subsidies. Subsidies defined as

"a sum of money granted by the state or a public body to - HELP AN INDUSTRY - or business keep the price of a commodity or service low."

I know what you're trying to say, but it is incorrect. Here's another source.

http://www.cbc.ca...

Whether you're pro or against the subsidy is a different matter, but both the US and Canada give subsidies to Big Oil, according to them to keep the price down. I'd debate this but it isn't controversial WHETHER they give subsidies or not.

http://www.theatlantic.com...
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