PF Topic for December 2011:In the US, current income disparities threaten democratic ideals.
Debate Rounds (4)
We adopt the Center for Civic Education and the National Council for the Social Studies’ definition of democratic ideals, which consist of the “fundamental beliefs and constitutional principles of American society, which unite all Americans....expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the United States constitution and other significant documents, speeches, and writing of the nation.”
“The end of democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed incorporations.” -Thomas Jefferson. This is the danger we are facing. There is no definition in either Merriam Websters dictionary or the Oxford English Dictionary. Therefore, because the topic is specific to the United States, we define democratic ideals according to those giants of democracy-John Locke and Thomas Jefferson. The common good of the people, domestic tranquility, from John Locke, the pursuit of Property. and equal representation in government are all values strongly held by our founding fathers and are therefore valid ideals to be considered in this debate. We would like to define democracy according to the OED: that form of government in which the sovereign power resides in the people as a whole, and is exercised by them (as in the small republics of antiquity) or by officers elected by them, used denoting a social state in which all have equal rights, without hereditary or arbitrary differences of rank or privilege. We must also define the income gap according to the CBO findings which is that: in terms of share of market income the lowest quintile has under 5% of the share, the second quintile- about 7% the middle quintile about 12% fourth quintile-about 19% and the highest quintile- about 60% (20% of which is the top 1%) as of 2007.
The current income gap creates UNequal represenentation between the middle-income earners and the high earners. Here are a few reasons. The Citizens United decision about a year ago enables wealthy people like Karl Rove ( to set up Super PACs whose only purpose is to support their candidate for president. And lets face it, money is the currency of democracy. The more money a candidate has, as we know, has a bigger chance to win an office. Out of the 422 seats up for election in the 2010 midterm, all but 7 of those who won had a significant financial advantage over their opponent- even in places where their political opinion varied greatly with that of the population of their district/state. About 50% of that campaign money raised is from wealthy individuals-about 0.82% of the population. In fact, less than 10% of campaign money comes from ordinary citizens like you and me. This leaves a disproportionate amount of power in the hands of less-than one percent of the population and is directly destructive of the value of equal representation
Congressmen are loyal to those who give them money. According to a poll conducted by USA Today, 59% of Americans think that BP should pay ALL costs for the Gulf oil spill and BP has a 6% approval rating. BUT, 115 republican members of the House of Representatives agreed that BP’s refinancing of those Gulf families affected by the spill was “a shakedown.” And the funny thing is, in 2008 alone, over $13 million was given to the republican party by major oil and gas companies. This lack of incentive to be what they were meant to be-servants of their constituents- is degrading of the political system, and instead of serving the constituents, they serve the the 1%.
Because of wealthy lobbyists in Congress essentially bribing politicians for their vote, the congress no longer serves the Common Good of the nation, but rather the interests of the wealthy corporations. Congressmen are loyal to those who finance them significantly, which happens to be 0.82% of the population. Can the interests of 800,000 people be the interests of a nation? Certainly not.
Currently, house republicans are blocking any and all tax increases, even those on the super-rich despite the fact that 64% of Americans say that millionaires SHOULD be taxed more than they currently are.
Money is not the currency of democracy, but votes are. The fact that only 7 of the 422 seats won with a financial disadvantage does not mean anything. This follows into the logical fallacy called: cum hoc ergo propter hoc. Or most well-known as: "correlation does not imply causation". The bestselling economics book, Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner has a section on the quickly diminishing marginal returns of election campaign spending. In this, they disprove the widely-held truism that 'money buys elections'. First they admit that there is a correlation between money and politics: those candidates or parties that spend the most often win. But they dispute the commonly held assumption that the spending causes the win. Instead they point out that anticipated win - or possible win - will often attract the campaign money. When candidates obtain large amounts of money it is usually because they are seen to be the best candidate or the one mostly likely to win. Based on Levitt's study of campaign spending by the same candidates against the same competitors over decades of US congressional elections, it was found that 'the amount of money spent by the candidates hardly matters at all. A winning candidate can cut his spending in half and lose only 1% of the vote. Meanwhile, a losing candidate who doubles his spending can expect to shift the vote in his favor by only that same 1%'. The Freakonomics authors conclude that campaign spending has a very small impact on election outcomes, regardless of who does the spending. If money has the influence you suggest it has than in 2008 the elections would have been Hillary Clinton vs Mitt Romney.
I agree with your argument that congressmen are loyal to those who give them money, but you failed to acknowledge why there is so much motivation for big companies, such as BP, to spend their money "buying politicians." President Woodrow Wilson understood that "if the government is to tell big business men how to run their business, then don't you see that big business men have to get closer to the government even than they are now? Don't you see that they must capture the government, in order not to be restrained too much by it? They have already captured it." So why big companies spend so much money on the government in the first place? Because the government changes the rules in order to pick winners and losers, the government tell big business how to run their business.
There is an economic theory called "regulatory capture" put forward by Nobel laureate economist George Stigler, that affirms that regulatory capture occurs when a state regulatory agency created to act in the public interest instead advances the commercial or special interests that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating. Regulatory capture is a form of government failure, as it can act as an encouragement for large firms to produce negative externalities. The agencies are called "captured agencies". So basically, the more the government expands its power, more is likely to be captured by big business. And nobody wants to see big business conducting the market by governmental force and not by voluntary transactions.
Just remember of the anti-trust case in 1998 when the federal government went after Microsoft for being too competitive, charging nothing for the Internet Explorer browser on the new Windows 98 version. Before that Microsoft was too much busy revolutionizing the software industry, and they spent zero dollars on lobby. After the case Microsoft learned their lesson, if they don't pay their dues to the government through lobby, they might face another multimillion case like that and the threats to be divided into two companies. In 2011 Microsoft spent $7 million dollars in lobby and has captured agencies such as the Patent and Trademark Office and the Immigration Service. So if you want less lobby and control of the government by big business, you want government limited and small. The founders understood that, this is why they created a limited government with so many checks and balances that it is unpractical, slow, and dysfunctional. But that is how they intended, otherwise, power could be concentrated and nothing is more dangerous to liberty than power at the hands of few.
The fact that the majority of the people want tax increases on the super-rich does not make it right. Remember, the United States is not a democracy, it is a republic. It is not a country of men, but of laws. If the majority of the people want slavery, that does not mean that slavery should be implemented. Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch, a free republic is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote. If the founders intended for the country to be a democracy they would have created a parliamentarism, without a constitution, division of powers, checks and balances, two houses of congress, and federalism where the voice of the majority would always be the law. But they wanted a do-nothing government, they wanted the government to be a stage where many factions could fight each other for power and in the end accomplish nothing, because in that sense liberty would be preserved. It is somehow very ironic that you are concerned about first principles established by the constitution and the founders, and at the same time advocates a tax increase on very rich people. First principles do not allow an income tax, but that is for another debate.
Contention 1 refutes:
You have mentioned a report from freakonomics. However, freakonomics is about as reliable as Fox News. Many of their "reports" have been thoroughly disproven over the years. They even admit that they themselves have made mistakes. I never said that money is a decide-all factor, and I'd like to ask you- how –specifically– did they do this "study"? Was it a simulation? Or where they able to actually remove all variables from the campaigns you mentioned except money? If this "study" was in any way scientific, they would have been able to remove all variables except money in order to definitively prove this.
Besides, the study is entirely beside the point. Whether or not the study is accurate, the politicians don't know that. The politicians believe that money is power and therefore they will do what is possible to obtain money. Your quote by Woodrow Wilson (although irrelevant) proves that politicians believe that money IS power.
Contention 2 refutes:
You are missing the point. I am not arguing politicians should be involved with business, as that has nothing to do with the resolution.
In fact, your contentions further proves my point that businesses attempt to capture politics and politicians with special interest groups and lobbyists. You are not arguing to the topic in the second contention, you are arguing that regulations and attempts at regulations further the insidious (as that is what you are implying-that it IS insidious) aims of large corporations which detracts from government's main focus, which is to help the people.
Contention 3 refutes:
I never argued that the majority is right, simply that the majority should be able to decide the direction of the nation. NOT the 1% of people who give financial aid to politicians. And yes, the United States is a democracy. It is true that the framers of the US did not create a complete democracy, but at the same time, they did not want a complete republic by the traditional use of the term. Otherwise they would have completely adopted Rome's system, in which the lower house, the one representing the people, had very little actual power. Whereas the House of Reps. has a very significant amount of power.
The OED defines a democracy as a "Government by the people; that form of government in which the sovereign power resides in the people as a whole, and is exercised either directly by them (as in the small republics of antiquity) or by officers elected by them. In mod. use often more vaguely denoting a social state in which all have equal rights, without hereditary or arbitrary differences of rank or privilege." This sounds very akin to the system we have.
Now that that's out of the way, let me get at what is completely wrong in your contention. Th framers DID what government to do something. The one thing they DREADED was political parties, or factions, as you call them.
George Washington feared this.
Thomas Jefferson feared this.
"freakonomics is about as reliable as Fox News"
I have to agree with you on that one. However, I showed that study because I thought in that case they did a pretty good job. I do not have the book with me right now, but that is not necessary for our debate to continue. I suggest you to read it, you can read just the chapter about money and elections. A lot of the rest is just BS.
" The politicians believe that money is power and therefore they will do what is possible to obtain money."
Of course they will. But that does not mean money will make them win an election. And election donations are voluntary, so, who cares who receives more money? Clinton got a $1 million more than Obama, and she still lost.
In 2010 the Republicans gained 63 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, recapturing the majority. In 2008 the Democrats gained 21 seats, increasing even more their majority. I ask you, those two elections alone was a result of money shifting hands? Or the fact that the people's sentiment changed? In 2008 people voted Democrat because of Bush's policies, wars, bailouts, and lies, right? In 2010 people voted Republican after realizing that Obama and his mandates and more bailouts was a very bad choice too. I think the govt just reflects TOO MUCH the people's sentiment. Just go around this website, nobody agrees with nobody, half of the people here want more stuff while the other half are tired to pay for: that is exactly how the govt is working now.
"Your quote by Woodrow Wilson (although irrelevant) proves that politicians believe that money IS power."
I quoted President Wilson because he understood what it is in govt that attracts so much lobby and big business. He knew what attracts and encourages money to buy influence inside the govt. And if you are concerned about money influencing politicians, than you should target the root of the problem. You should target what attracts so much money. Income disparities is NOT what is threatening democratic ideals, but the acceptance of the people for more govt power is causing money to be so influential inside the govt. We all want clean energy right? I don't know a single person that likes pollution, but by giving to the govt the power to dictate what kind of energy is cleaner and better, opens a door for lobby and money influence in govt; just watch the recent case with Solyndra and GE. We all want equal representation too, right? So let's limit the govt scope into those things we all agree won, and those things that we don't, let the people rule themselves.
Things work like this: Big business and big labor give money to politicians that are winning, and are capable of win an election. They do not give money to politicians in a attempt to prop up their campaigns, because that is just impossible and considered a waste. The public will vote in people they like. Have you ever knew somebody that did vote for candidate A because he raised more money than candidate B? So the winning candidates once in govt feels compelled to give big business and big labor some favors back, because he feels the need for reelection money. It is like an investment, you do not buy stocks in an attempt to prop up such business, you buy because you expect that such stock will grow, with or without your money. Big business and big labor give politicians money in an attempt to bend the regulations to their favor, and that is quite effective.
So what you see as an income disparity being the cause of unaccountable govt, I see as excessive of demands by the people to the govt that backfires on them. That is why the founders wanted limit govt, because if govt is limited they will not be bought so easily. Just take a look at the biggest lobbies in DC. They come from the industries with the most amount of regulation.
"In fact, your contentions further proves my point that businesses attempt to capture politics and politicians with special interest groups and lobbyists."
Not only big business, but everybody tries to capture politics and politicians. Labor unions represent workers, and they, like big business, come with a lot of money for their favorite candidates, those that are more likely to represent the workers. The difference is that if you are raising in the polls, money will come.
"I never argued that the majority is right, simply that the majority should be able to decide the direction of the nation. NOT the 1% of people who give financial aid to politicians. And yes, the United States is a democracy."
"A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%." Thomas Jefferson
" Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property." James Madison
"We are a Republican Government, Real liberty is never found in despotism or in the extremes of democracy" Alexander Hamilton
" The experience of all former ages had shown that of all human governments, democracy was the most unstable, fluctuating and short-lived." John Quincy Adams
Even Karl Marx understood that, he said "Democracy is the road to socialism." Thomas Jefferson almost a hundred years before him clarifies that: "The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not." And also Ben Franklin: "When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic."
So the United States is NOT a democracy. The directions of the country are not guided by the majority, but by unchangeable principles of individual freedom. Democratic values, as I understood to be the ones mentioned in the declaration of independence (even though the right term would be natural rights, and not democratic values) are NOT threaten by income disparities, but by the current increasing necessity that the people have to be ruled by the govt.
Dr.Strangelove forfeited this round.
Zulske forfeited this round.
Because my opponent has conceded the fact that freakonomics is inherently unreliable without offering information as to why this "study" is valid, we can disregard it as an invalid and inaccurate piece of data.
"In 2010 the Republicans gained 63 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, recapturing the majority. In 2008 the Democrats gained 21 seats, increasing even more their majority. I ask you, those two elections alone was a result of money shifting hands? Or the fact that the people's sentiment changed? In 2008 people voted Democrat because of Bush's policies, wars, bailouts, and lies, right? In 2010 people voted Republican after realizing that Obama and his mandates and more bailouts was a very bad choice too. I think the govt just reflects TOO MUCH the people's sentiment. Just go around this website, nobody agrees with nobody, half of the people here want more stuff while the other half are tired to pay for: that is exactly how the govt is working now."
It is true that nation-wide sentiment has had a hand in the election. However, money can change the sentiment of the people. In 2010, 115 republican candidates declared that the way government held BP responsible was "a shakedown," even though the majority of their constituents thought that BP should have payed more than they already had. And, when they went home to be reelected, although opinion differed, they won by a 20% margin average.
In this case, money and positive advertisement was able to combat sentiment.
"Things work like this: Big business and big labor give money to politicians that are winning, and are capable of win an election. They do not give money to politicians in a attempt to prop up their campaigns, because that is just impossible and considered a waste."
Let's assume for a moment that you are right, then because of these people giving money to candidates it will influence how they vote in congress no matter how the people eel about that issue. You have already admitted this.
However, it is not true. Allow me to re-address the Obama v. Clinton campaign. Obama going into the campaign was at a serious disadvantage at the start of the campaign. He was an unknown senator from Chicago who had a very small support base. The fact that he was able to raise money to within only $1 Million of Hillary Clinton is astounding, and that, coupled with his fantastic oratory powers is probably what gave the campaign the push it needed to beat Clinton's. However, if you'll recall, he only beat Clinton by a very narrow margin, showing how critical money is.
"Not only big business, but everybody tries to capture politics and politicians. Labor unions represent workers, and they, like big business, come with a lot of money for their favorite candidates, those that are more likely to represent the workers. The difference is that if you are raising in the polls, money will come."
Yes, I agree, everyone TRIES to capture congress, but who succeeds? According to open secrets.org, the top lobby sectors from 1998-2011 are Health (at $4.7 Billion) Finance/Insurance/Real Estate (at $4.7 Billion) Misc. Business (again at $4.7 Billion) Communications (at $3.9 Billion) and Energy ( $3.5 Billion with oil and gas at $1.1) Billion with Labor and Construction 2nd and 3rd from the bottom respectively and $479 Million and $525 Million. Not even close to enough money to counter-balance the smallest of large lobbies, Energy.
In response to your quotes, what was meant by democracy at that time is different than how it is used now, and we must consider what is currently meant by democracy as well as ideals that are commonly held by the American people. Chief among these is that our congressmen should represent us. They, however do not as explained previously. That is the first part of my definition of Democratic Ideals, as was agreed upon by you in the opening debate.
Zulske forfeited this round.
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