The Instigator
Con (against)
5 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
0 Points

Resolved: Current income disparities in the US threaten democratic ideals

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Post Voting Period
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after 2 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/13/2011 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 19,696 times Debate No: 19260
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (2)
Votes (2)




This is a PF debate. I expect my opponent to be familiar with the rules of PF. Good luck.
Income disparities appear to be the essence of inequality. How can people who earn minimum wage compare to those that earn six-figure salaries? How does the fact that some can't afford insurance, and some don't need insurance, suggest equality? While those that earn more certainly have more, does that necessarily mean that they are better than others, and that it is impossible for democracy to function while the income gap exists? Today's resolution, current income disparities threaten democratic ideals, seeks to answer the previous question. My partner and I firmly disagree with the resolved. Income disparities are natural, are not part of the government's will, and do not produce unequal distribution of political power.
Contention 1: Income disparities are natural
Income disparities have been around since man first used money. All civilizations, even democratic ones, have had rich people and poor people. The rich were generally those that had some degree of education, thus making them more useful to the leaders of their nations. Since they were more valuable to their governments, they were paid more. In today's world, education plays an even greater role in income. People who are more valuable to their companies and possess skills that other people lack get hundreds of times more pay. Income disparity is very logical and has naturally occurred throughout history. If something as common and natural as income disparity hurts democracy, there would be no democracies in the modern world.
Contention 2: The government does not favor the rich
People who believe that current income disparities hurt democracy do so for one of two reasons: either they believe that the US government favors the rich and thus doesn't truly represent the people, or they believe that an individual's income determines his or her political power. In my second contention I will address the former reason.
Many people believe that the government is helping big business at the public's expense. The government gives bailout funds to businesses that are supposedly too-big-to-fail. The bailout funds are supposed to help businesses keep old employees and possibly hire new ones. However, bailout funds are used not to hire new workers, but to add bonus money for a few elite employees. Who should we blame: the government whose good intentions fall flat, or the corporations who greedily spend public money? The answer to this question depends entirely on whether the government care to do anything about the bonuses. Yale professor John Macey writes: "Politicians are frustrated because they are virtually powerless to stop the flow of bonus payments to bankers. Rep. Dennis Kucinich thinks that the U.S. should levy heavy taxes on bonuses. While such action might placate some people, it is the shareholders, not the banks, who will end up paying this tax. Worse, this sort of tax will not affect banker behavior, because it will not reduce (and probably will increase) the government's proclivity to bail out banks that have made bad bets." It is clear that politicians are against large bonuses and are working towards a solution. Current US politicians are keen to the public's interests and follow the people's will as they should in a democratic government. It is big business, and not the government, that we should blame for such large income disparities.
Contention 3: Income does not influence political power
My third contention will address the second reason for believing that income disparities hurt democracy: that money can be used as leverage in the voting system. During the Gilded Age, some rich people got richer by bribing people to vote for a candidate and having the candidate cater to them after he wins the election. If in the US such corruption has happened in the past, it could happen very well happen today, or could it? I would like to point out that the corruption mentioned previously is from the past, which means that at some point the corruption ended. Why did the corruption end? A probable reason is the switch to a secret ballot. Bribing a person to cast a certain vote only works if you have a way of knowing if that person followed through on his side of the bribe. The secret ballot made it impossible to verify that a bribe worked and thus corruption was rendered ineffective.
Today, the secret ballot still exists and corruption is still ineffective, so there is no fear that rich individuals will use their economic leverage to influence the government and the outcomes of elections.
Current income disparities are thus not a threat to democratic ideals because they natural, are not part of the government's will, and do not influence political power. Thank you and I urge a con ballot.


(Hello, I am familiar with PF Debates but im not quite an expert on them, if I screw up somewhere just let me know and I will refrain from making the same mistake again)

1) Income inequality is natural like the con said. However in cases of extreme income inequality, democratic ideals can be at risk. In times of extreme income inequality, nations are prone to quick and radical government change.

If you look at any democracy in Africa for example, you will probably find a very large amount of income inequality within that nation. It may exist for any reason but when income inequality becomes large enough, the public will protest to their governments to either A) tax the rich, or B) create laws that raises the living standards of the poorer classes. If the government can do either or both of those, then the public will be happy and keep their democratic governments. If the government fails to do so, makes the problem worse, or openly denounced the lower classes, that could be the spark of revolution.

Income inequality does not directly lead to the loss of democratic ideals. However income inequality if severe enough will start to anger the public, if the government cannot appease them than a revolution could occur over class warfare. It happened before in the middle ages when the working peasant class were upset by how their lords taxed them almost to death while their taxes were spent on luxury. It also happened in many modern African nations where income inequality fueled such anger that it allowed a warlord or warlords to recruit gunman and seize power.

Does the current income inequality in the US threaten the US democracy today though? There are many reports showing how the current income in the US is now similar to levels prior to the Great Depression and the Gilded Age. Both times before Congress started to pass laws to regulate banks and allow workers to form unions, receive overtime pay, work only from 9-5, have weekends off, etc. Many of these laws in the past seemed like a violation of democratic ideals to corporations back then.

It is possible that the current level of income inequality could fuel public resentment and cause the government to pass laws that in the views of some people, could infringe on the democratic ideals of the nation.

2) The government does not favor the rich, that is a fact, but the working class may not see the truth or interpret government actions differently than from what they truly are. During the bailouts, that was the government investing tax dollars to save jobs in massive corporations, many people saw that though as the government favoring the wealthy over the middle class. Whether they are right or wrong, such actions fuel public anger so an honest move by the government could be interpreted as favoritism. If the government would try to appease the middle class by for example, taxing bonuses, that would appease the public even if it hurt the economy more. taxing bonuses on banker employees could be seen as a threat on democratic ideals by those working within the banking system, but if the public is happy about it then the changes will stay.

Big businesses are responsible for income inequality, not the governments. However people will always turn to the government to try to remedy the problem, and depending on the outcome a change in democratic ideals could occur.

Income inequality influences politics in many ways, buying actual votes was just the first tactic to be used. Today campaign finance reform is a big issue because corporations can now donate unlimited sums of money to candidates they favor to try to influence legislation. It only takes one report to show how much money a corporation has given to one candidate for the public to become upset about it and soon call for the government to do something about it. Again if the government ignores it or makes it worse, a change in government could happen, if they do then corporations will see their democratic ideals violated (democratic ideals in this case is that money = speech, limiting campaign contributions = limiting speech which goes against the first amendment)

Current income inequalities threaten democratic ideals because,
1) If severe enough the public could rise up and demand reform (look at the occupy wall street protests) which could cost corporations right they consider to be sacred
2) The government must take action over income inequality if they feel pressure from voters to address the issue
3) Money can influence political will and political power
Debate Round No. 1


Crossfire (my opponent and I ask each other questions to be answered in the next round)

You say in your first contention that extreme income inequality puts governments at risk.
1. What counts as extreme income inequalities?
2. Have any democracies in Africa experienced revolutions?
3. Is it likely that the US will experience a revolution?

You agree that the government doesn't favor the rich, but that the working class thinks that it does.
1. Is democracy based on blindly appeasing the public or by doing what's best for the public?
2. "a change in democratic ideals could occur". What is your definition of democratic ideals? How can they be changed?

You say that income influences politics.
1. Corporations can donate unlimited amounts of money? Please provide a source.
2. Does the money that organizations contribute come mostly from individuals or from the corporation?
3. How does corporate funding for elections compare with public (government) funding?
4. Both parties in the government are well-funded. How significant are corporate funds in influencing how one votes?

For your summary:
1. What reform would the government make that would cost corporations some rights?
2. What action would the government (be able) to take to satisfy voters that feel strongly about the issue?
3. What evidence is there that money can influence political will and power?


Crossfire round

In your opening round you claim that income inequality is natural and found in every society
1) Anarchists are present in every society but they pose a threat, Are you saying that just because income inequality exists everywhere then it poses NO threat at all?

In your second contention you claim that the government does not favor the rich but you admit that there are people who do not see it that way
1) Are you saying that just because some people are wrong about the nature of income inequality does that mean that those people CANNOT force some sort of change that could threaten US democratic ideals just because they are wrong?
2) When choosing who to blame, why is it that both parties in question are not at fault?
3) Are US senators working towards the goal like you claim or are they in reality making very little progress over the matter?
4) Do ALL politicians ALWAYS listen to public interests?
5) You claim that big businesses are solely to blame for income inequality, do you have sources to back up this claim or are there other factors that may contribute to income inequality?

Contention 3
1) Does corruption only come in one form (secret ballot) like you claim or are there other possible forms of corruption?
2) Can economic leverage only cause corruption in this way or are there other ways to corrupt politicians?
Debate Round No. 2


Answers to my opponent's questions:

1) Anarchists pose little to no threat as far as I can see. Are you judging them because they don't believe in government? I am saying that since income inequalities exist everywhere, they don't pose a serious threat.

1) Provide me with some way that people can successfully force an issue such as lowering income disparities.
2) Provide me a reason you think the government is at fault.
3) Senators are both working towards and making little progress over the matter.
4) It's unlikely that all politicians always listen to the public. But that would be an issue of human nature/politics and not the subject of this debate.
5) I never said that big business was solely to blame for income inequality. There are other factors such as education and specialized skills. And the source you were looking for is here:

1) Corruption, by definition, is bribery.
2) See answer I made to your previous question

A friendly reminder to my opponent to respond to my questions in round 3. You were supposed to answer them in this round. I understand that you are not quite familiar with PF debate.
Speech 2:

One does not normally think that income disparities can affect democratic deals, therefore Pro has the burden of proof. So far, Pro has based his entire case on refuting my case. Therefore if my case stands, I win the debate. If my opponent succeeds in refuting my case, he still has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that current income disparities threaten democratic ideals to win the debate.

Let's examine my 3 contentions and see if they still stand:

Contention 1: Income disparities are natural

My opponent has agreed that this is true. He claims however that extreme income inequalities lead to social unrest and could possibly lead to a revolution. However, how likely is that to happen in the US? If the public doesn't like how a politician is doing things, they could boot him or her out of office in a few years. Our election system was set up so that the public wouldn't have to resort to violence to get bad officials out of office.

With that said, it's more likely that high income inequality helps democracy, since it inspires people to become politically involved and use democratic rights instead of take them for granted.

Contention 2: The government does not favor the rich

My opponent agrees with my contention, but states that the working class mistakenly blames the government for the large income disparities, and might force the government to infringe on the rights of business executives. However, the government was created with a system of checks and balances. Congress cannot infringe on businessmen's rights because they want to or because the public wants them to. A bill that attempts to allow that would be killed under the Chief Justice's gavel.

Therefore how the working class interprets government actions is not relevant in this debate. Either the large bonuses are unlawful and should be taxed, or they are lawful and the public cannot do anything to change that.

Contention 3: Income does not influence political power

My opponent claims that money influences politics in many ways, one of which is funding a presidential candidate's campaign and bending his will. I provided my opponent with two sources that suggest the contrary. True, presidential candidates need money, but they have many ways to get the money they need, including taking a huge loan from the US treasury. Any corporate grants would be appreciated, but not essential.

There is also a limit on how much money individuals (and corporations) can donate, designed so that any person who would like to bend the potential president to his or her will will find that his or her potential influence is very restrained.

Thus money and politics are two separate things.

Income disparities are natural, are not part of the government's will, and don't influence politics. I have refuted my opponent's rebuttals and with those, his case. Based on my analysis at the beginning of this speech, the debate should go to CON. Thank you.


Answers to Con's questions in round 2

1) Extreme inequality is based on opinion. I personally believe that extreme income inequality is where the rich are fabulously wealthy and a large majority (70%) of the rest of the population live in poverty

2) There are many former democracies in Africa that experienced revolutions where there was a great deal of income inequality,
Ghana underwent revolutions between 1966 to 1981
Nigeria underwent revolutions in CONSECUTIVE years in 1984 and 1985
Zambia underwent revolutions in the 1990's which were driven by many economic factors including income inequality
And that was just a few...

Its happened in the past in other countries too....

France in the late 1700's experienced one hell of a revolution when the middle class, the bourgeois, protested the massive inequality between them and the noble class...

The Russian Revolution in 1912 was also driven by a number of economic reasons, one of them being the income inequality between serfs/peasants and the landowning nobles

3) The US will probably not experience a revolution, however the debate is about if income inequality threatens US democratic ideals, which they certainly do. It is possible that income inequality could combine with other economic woes and trigger the public to pressure the government into sacrificing democratic rights of some corporations to address the income inequality (I can elaborate how, but there's a character limit)


1) Democracy is not based on "blindly" appeasing the public. Blindly is a very ugly term and does not apply in these circumstances. The public though are very knowledgeable and if the government does not do a favorable job in the views of the public then they will be voted out and replaced by those who will get the job done.

2) Democratic ideals encompasses many things, the ones at risk from income inequality include taxing the rich, taxing corporations, removing any benefits to the rich by the government etc. The democratic ideals that are at risk in these cases could be freedom of enterprise, overturning the ruling that made corporations people, etc.


1) Corporations can provide unlimited sums of money, here are multiple sources

2) - 4) because the law states that corporations can remain anonymous and contributions are private and anonymous I cannot give an answer to these questions.

1) If the government were to reverse the Supreme Court decision then the corporations first amendment rights to free speech would be compromised since the Supreme Court declared money = speech, and if the government puts a cap limit on contributions it would limit speech.

2) Voters would probably be satisfied at seeing the richest people either pay a larger proportion of their income in taxes or reverse the ruling that made corporations into people. The government could appease people if they did that.

3) Political corruption occurs when government officials use their hold on power to extract from the private sector, from government revenues, and from the economy at large. In this case corporations are just GIVING huge sums of money to candidates and now they can use this money in any way. If that doesnt satisfy the Con these sources of corruption might.

"I never said that big business was solely to blame for income inequality"
but in the first round you said
"It is big business, and not the government, that we should blame for such large income disparities."
Did you change your mind?

I have shown that income inequalities pose a threat to governments and that income inequality does affect politics and nations. The Con has not refuted my questions and I am very disappointed that he only asked for sources and examples or just asked more questions instead of providing well thought out answers to my questions

In 2008 Barack Obama became the first president since Nixon to win the presidency without using public money, he won completely with contributions. They ARE essential, contrary to what the Con believes...

By the way Con, its only the third round, dont cry victory when you havent answered all of my questions and your contradicting yourself, its rather immature
Debate Round No. 3


Crossfire 2:
1. You define extreme income inequality as when the rich are super rich and 70% of the rest of the population lives in poverty. Does the US currently have extreme inequality?

2. You agree that democracy is not about blindly appeasing the public, so it must be to do what's best for the public. What have Congress and the Executive Branch done that has not served the public's best interest?

3. Corporations can provide unlimited sums of money. Does that necessarily mean that corporations are corrupting the government?

4. Only the Supreme Court can reverse Supreme Court rulings. How would the government be able to limit corporate speech?

5. A precondition on corruption is the use of power, correct? How is accepting donations an act of corruption?

6. You've shown that income inequalities pose a threat to African governments. Does the same thing apply to the US government?

7. In what way does income inequality affect politics?

8. Obama and Nixon didn't use public money to win the presidency. Does that mean they couldn't have used public money? Does that mean that corporate funding is important to any other past president?

9. Based on my analysis in my second speech, do you think you are closer to victory or do you think I'm closer to victory?

A reminder to my opponent and voters that in debate you are evaluated based on what you say, not what your sources say.


1) You contradicted yourself on this part of the debate, who really is to blame for income inequality in the US, the government or big business? why?

2) Do the US public not know what is good for them or do they?

3) Just because some people are wrong about the nature of income inequality, does that mean that those people
CANNOT force some sort of change that could threaten US democratic ideals, just because they are wrong?

4) If Congress is making slow progress on the issue do you think that could upset the American Public?

5) Since you admit that some politicians do not listen to the public, does that mean your statement in round 1,

" Current US politicians are keen to the public's interests and follow the people's will as they should in a democratic government"

Isnt 100% true and that some politicians actions threaten our democratic government because they are not adhering to the rules of it as defined by you in this statement?

6) Why do I have the burden of proof if I only have to argue that current income inequalities THREATEN democratic ideals? Wouldnt that mean you have to show there is absolutely no way they do threaten democratic ideals?

7) Why are you reminding me and the voters that,
"you are evaluated based on what you say, not what your sources say."
but before you were asking for sources instead of giving actual answers to my questions?

8) Do sources mean nothing at all in this debate?

(A reminder to voters that in a debate you are evaluated based on what you say, and I say all of you voters are very smart and I respect your opinions ;D )
Debate Round No. 4


Answers to my opponent's questions:

1) I did not contradict myself. I never said that big business was solely to blame. Public funds do allow the businesses to hand out big bonuses, but the government does not have another feasible choice. Big business is to blame for the increasing income disparities because they are the group that is handing out the bonuses.

2) They should know what is good for them, but whether they know is hard to tell.

3) People cannot simply force an issue because they feel strongly about it. All three branches of the government have to bend for something to happen. The Supreme Court will shoot any right-encroaching bill down.

4) It could upset the American Public.

5) To say that the actions of a minority of politicians threatens democratic government is far-fetched.

6) You have to show that economics somehow or another have the potential to seriously violate democratic ideals. Economics and democracy are completely separate things. Thus you have the burden of proof.

7) I was asking for examples, not sources. The examples you provided are mostly mentioned by your sources, not by you.

8) Sources are used in a debate to prove to the opponent that one is not lying. They are not debate partners. You cannot post a source and say that is your argument.
Summary (a summary and evaluation of existing points made by both sides, no new points):

This debate has centered around two points: whether the public can make the government violate the rights of certain groups of citizens, and whether corporations can use their money to corrupt the government.

On the issue of whether the public can make the government violate the rights of certain groups of citizens, Pro has said that an angry public can pressure the government into making encroaching laws using the voting system, while Con has said that the Supreme Court makes that impossible. Pro has not proven that encroachment is still possible with the Supreme Court, thus Con wins this point.

On the issue of whether corporations can use their money to corrupt the government, Pro has said that corporations can donate unlimited sums of money to presidential campaigns. Con has questioned the impact of this claim by giving examples of alternative sources of campaign funding. Pro has not shown that corporate funding is absolutely essential for a campaign to be successful. Candidates with respect for democratic ideals can theoretically turn down the donations or not act in favor of donors. This point remains unclear and unproven, and thus goes to Con.


1) I believe that the US does not have extreme income inequality, but that is based off my own personal definition of what extreme income inequality is. Voters may believe that the US is indeed in extreme income inequality and they could easily be right

2) List of things Congress and The President has done that upset a good number of Americans
-Created a military draft for the war in Vietnam,
-Failed to efficiently handle the nations ever growing debt
-Gave bailouts to big corporations
-Extended tax cuts to the wealthy
-Put more troops in Afghanistan
-Lied about Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD's) In Iraq

And thats just a few

3) Corporations having the option to give large donations, no that is not corrupt. But if companies DO donate immense sums of money to the campaign of one politician then that could easily be considered corrupt

4) The Supreme Court is part of the government so they could later revise their own ruling in the future (its happened before, see below), also a Constitutional amendment can be created to limit corporate contributions

5) Accepting the donations isnt the act of corruption, its using all that money to give themselves more power and influence over the public and over other candidates that is corrupt.

6) Yes, income inequality poses a threat to the US government because if it rises to such conspicuous levels that the public can easily see how bad it is and decide to do something about it, they can force the US government to do something about it

7) In times like these Income Inequality can affect who gets elected to Congress or even the White House. If a candidate is fiercely against higher taxes for the rich but still considers raising taxes on the middle class then the public would not vote for that person and instead vote for someone who would act according to what the public wants. With enough elections then Congress would start to consist of enough politicians who would respect the public's wishes and action could be taken to fight income inequality

8) Obama and Nixon could have used public money but they didnt need to because the number of donations they received from corporate donations were utterly massive. If a large limit was placed on how much each corporation could donate the funds that candidates would have would be much smaller, so yes corporate funding is vital to other presidents and our future ones

9) Your second speech is riddled with misconceptions about the nature of income inequality, you believe that the Supreme Court is untouchable by the other branches of government, you were incorrect about just how money can influence politics, and you claimed victory when the debate was half over before I could even respond to the questions you asked me. So I believe that you did not help your case but whether or not I am any closer to victory because of it is up to the voters

The Con thinks it is fundamentally impossible for the American public to force the government to limit the power of corporations in anyway, but today there are many things that suggest otherwise. The American public has pressured the government to limit corporate power by
1) installing a minimum wage
2) allowing workers to have unions
3) allowing workers to have weekends off
4) allowing workers an 8 hour workday
5) allowing workers to be granted overtime pay
6) forcing companies to make consumer items environmentally safe
7) forcing companies to provide tolerable working conditions

I see no evidence in history that suggests that the people could NOT pressure the government to limit how much money a corporation can contribute to a campaign, unlike what the Con believes

The Supreme Court is not untouchable like the Con claims, but the Supreme Court could easily overturn their own rulings over the same issue in the past and decide that corporations cannot donate unlimited sums of money to campaigns. It's happened before,

1) Lochner v. New York
2) Adler v. Board of Education
3) Pace v. Alabama
4) Oregon v. Mitchell
5) Dred Scott v. Sandford
6) And the biggest case ruling ever reversed, Plessy v. Ferguson

In 2008 Obama raised roughly a billion dollars in campaign money, and the cap limit that candidates can borrow in public money is only $20, without corporate funding Obama's campaign would have lost anywhere from $500 to $900 MILLION in corporate donations. Corporate donations are essential to candidates who need money for their campaigns in order to win

Income Inequality can threaten US democratic ideals. If enough people are upset by it and pressure their governors, senators, representatives, mayors, and government to fix the issue then they will. The government has done this in the past and could do it again because with income inequality the government could remove powers from corporations that were considered democratic ideals.

Could income inequality in the US today do the same? Yes

Thanks for reading :D
Debate Round No. 5
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by YOUREALIAR2 6 years ago
You're comment is so wrong in so many ways. Ever heard of bribery?
Posted by thett3 6 years ago
income does not influence political power? um....
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by happy-bread 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: very bad debate....
Vote Placed by innomen 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:50 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro was unfocused in rebuttal, and both sides were crappy with sourcing, but con gets a tiny credit on that. I am unsure if there is greater latitude for a PF debate on how structured it should be, because this seemed very unstructured.