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RFD for Obama Debate

whiteflame
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8/16/2016 3:43:47 AM
Posted: 3 months ago
This is an RFD for the debate between Darenskiy and ThinkBig found here: http://www.debate.org...

Most of the debate focuses on economic points, so that will be emphasized here, but there are a couple of other points to handle. I'll address those first. I'll take the CARS program under the heading of economics, though the environmental point will be covered there as well. Just so we're clear, I'm referring to Pro and Con by the roles they took, and not the ones they were assigned.

1. Foreign policy

I like that Con decided to engage on issues other than straight economic harms, and I think it's generally a good tactic to try as many avenues towards success as possible. That being said, it's important to recognize how you're pushing your impacts, and whether those impacts apply to the debate or not. In this case, much of the early analysis from R2 is a good start, but it's not clear following that round what the harm is to the U.S., so it's not surprising that Pro outright dismisses it. So the impacts we see here " threatening relations with other countries and killing innocent people abroad through drone strikes " are really just begging the question of how they damage the U.S. directly.

Con does eventually get there. He argues that this had some substantial effects on troop safety, can increase terrorism, and can do some substantial damage to America's image. I buy these impacts because I'm given no reason not to, but there are two things standing in the way of them winning the debate for Con. First, the fact that they're presented in the final round forces me to weaken them substantially. It's close to a brand new argument, and it really should have appeared sooner. Second, there's no clear weight applied to any of these points. Con tries to argue that this is the most important point on the basis that it has widespread implications, but the effects are only vaguely stated with only minimal weighing analysis. I buy that these could be the most egregious problems, but when much of the major impact is based on the view that things will get significantly worse, I need to see a good deal of brink analysis explaining why this particular step is a step too far. I don't see that anywhere, so it's only suggestive of terrible impacts.

2. Obamacare

This actually turns chiefly into an economic point, so it probably shouldn"t be assessed separately, but there is the health impact, so I"ll make that the focus here. The lie Con cites has no clear impact, nor does the loss of one"s doctor and health plan (though I could certainly see where an impact might be derived from that), so we move on. The ad populum fallacy goes nowhere, as I don"t see either side giving me a reason why support (or lack thereof) has a tangible impact, though again, I can see where such an impact could have come from. The effort by both sides to focus on anecdotes similarly goes nowhere for me " a few stories of people seeing benefit and harm basically cancel out, and I"m left with little reason to prefer arguments made by either side on this point. Pro, however, gives me some numbers besides. He tells me exactly how many lives are saved as a result of Obamacare.

There is the economic aspect as well, which somewhat contradicts the benefits Pro cites. He tells me that healthcare spending has increased on a per household basis. Maybe that"s good for the overall economy, but it calls into question what that does to household finances, an issue I think Con could have made a big deal about in his responses. He kind of starts to do so by arguing that Obamacare has increased health care spending, but without contextualizing this in a clear harm, all I can do is say that it"s an extra boost to the economy. It"s not clear what that boost means (neither side really talked about how more/less spending benefits the economy), but the link to labor benefits is probably the most promising avenue either side took. Pro points out that the boost we"ve seen is clearly beneficial (though it"s worth taking the time to explain why in more detail " jobs matter for a number of really good reasons), so those will factor into my analysis of the overall economics at the end of the next section. In essence, Pro managed to turn this point on Con, citing tangible benefits that matter in the debate while Con struggled to produce anything more than a generalized lack of choice problem. Lack of provider/plan choice is indeed a huge problem for many, but it has to be explained and not just left as is.

3. Economics:

Alright, let"s do this. This is an economics advantage/disadvantage, so I"m looking for numbers and impacts, people.

A. Recession recovery

We"re not starting out strong, unfortunately. Pro"s argument here cites $600 billion default, which precedes Obama"s time in office. The big numbers here are $787 billion and $200 billion, but I get little in the way of context for why these matter. Tax cuts, aid and government investments all sound good, but I want to know what that means. For every dollar in tax cuts, how much economic activity is stimulated? For every dollar in government investment, how many roads are they re-paving to ensure decent transit for commerce and jobs? For every dollar in aid, how many people can go on feeding their families? Tell me why these things matter, and not just the broad strokes. Dodd-Frank gets even less specific, with just an impact of "financial responsibility" that goes nowhere.

I get something a little more specific on the financial institution level, but even that falls just shy of an impact assessment. Increasing private capital and ensuring that banks don"t exceed their financial limits sounds great, but neither of those is a terminal impact. Increasing capital means more loans means more people can go out and start businesses means economic and jobs boost. Ensuring that banks don"t exceed financial limits means they can"t revisit policies that caused the financial collapse means people can trust the U.S. financial system means people will invest in it means the economy improves more rapidly. I should be seeing these things in your arguments. They might seem obvious, but they"re what make your arguments potent.

But Pro"s still gaining ground on these points. In R3, Con argues that the Recovery Act actually did more harm than good, essentially stymieing the recovery process by slowing down the rate of employment. It"s not particularly clear why this is the case, and Con doesn"t really explain in his quotes, instead just stating analysis of what happened versus previous recessions. The graph, as Pro points out, only shows that the surge in unemployment was halted more rapidly by the Recovery Act, though it may invite reasons to believe that it wasn"t as good as it"s made out to be. Pointing to other recessions, Pro says that recovery was quicker, but that doesn"t really explain why Obama"s efforts have been harmful, just not as successful. It"s not clear at all what Obama did to prolong the recession, which seemed to be Con"s major rebuttal. At best, these points just come down to mitigation. Pro"s responses don"t do much to reduce these, as he just compares Obama to Bush (which doesn"t show that Obama himself was beneficial) and cites more unemployment numbers (it"s already pretty clear how substantial those are).
whiteflame
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8/16/2016 3:43:59 AM
Posted: 3 months ago
The best response I get is on the Dodd-Frank Act, which Con argues did more to harm smaller banks and actually restricted credit, making our system financially unstable. He doesn"t really argue that the financial responsibility Pro cites is wrong, just that it"s forcing even those who are not responsible into a bad place. Pro concedes some of this, instead arguing that the benefits outweighed the harms. He cites a couple of groups who say that community banks are doing better, though it"s not clear why that"s the case beyond a claim that larger banks were "using smaller banks to weaken regulations", something that really required more explanation. The fact that smaller banks are exempt from certain clauses and regulations doesn"t really clarify this either, since it"s just another form of mitigation telling me that they could be worse off than they are. I don"t doubt that small banks could be hurt more by these regulations, but that doesn"t tell me why they"re doing well or what benefits they"ve seen. If there"s a clear story about large banks leaning on small ones, tell it to me. I don"t see it here. So I"m buying that there"s harm to smaller banks on the whole, which was Con"s point. It"s not particularly powerful because I don"t see any assessment of that impact in terms of numbers or local effects, but it does stand as Con"s offense on this point.

B. Housing market

Again, I feel like the terminal impacts are just missing. I see a lot of numbers, and some explanation of why they matter, including some help to homeowners and homebuyers, though it's unclear what that means. What are they doing with theit money now? What will they do with the extra money they have after this? Will some of those 800,000 homeowners be kicked out of their homes if they don't get this help, particularly from lowered premiums? What does it mean to own a home? Why do we care that 250,000 more people will be able to own a home? I'm honestly a bit surprised that Con's response wasn't "enabling more people to be homeowners led to the very market collapse that got us into this mess", but that's a missed opportunity to turn this on its head. Instead, Con just straight up concedes the point, which leaves all of this on the table. A tactical mistake, in my opinion.

C. Unemployment

Practically all of this is present elsewhere in the debate, so really all that's left here is some more numbers. Again, those numbers seem to be lacking somewhat in context, but these get close enough to an impact that they clearly matter, and those numbers do swing in Pro's direction for certain.

Con's only effective responses come from his Economy point. While I will get to CARS and SNAP later, he does mention that long-term unemployment is lengthening still further. While I buy this (Pro's responses seem to miss the point " more of those who are unemployed have been bunemployed for longer, and that can be true while unemployment as a whole decreases), it has no clear impact. I'm not sure why longer term unemployment is worse than shorter term unemployment, so I treat unemployment the same across the board. That's going down, as Pro shows, so there's no effect from this argument.

D. CARS

I think this is where we get the most clash in the debate. Con begins by arguing that the program harmed new vehicle spending, did not produce more fuel efficient vehicles, and didn't stimulate the economy. These are broad claims, and honestly, they should have been better supported than just a citation without any analysis. Still, they're at least introducing some strong doubts about the program and showcasing some negatives that I must accept for the time being. Con does continue with arguments about the environment, focusing on the junking of cars as a reason for emissions. Again, though, something's wanting here, mainly in understanding how the impacts of the environment function. Con does get to the impact analysis in R4, but as I said with the foreign policy impacts, I am forced to weigh this less on the basis that it's in the final round. Also as I stated there, the lack of brink analysis is a big problem here. CARS accelerated climate change, I get that, but without any clear idea of what the threshold is for these harms to happen, it's just a nebulous harm that I have no reason to believe would ever happen, much less as a result of this specific environemtnal harm. I don't doubt that climate change is a major potential harm, but if this is going to be where you hang your hat, take the time to explain why this is what's going to push us over the edge.

Pro just spends more time on the economics. He concedes the environmental impact, which again has some lapses from Pro that weaken it substantially. Pro explains that the number of trades was substantial, that the value of car sales outdistances the cost of the program, and that it appears to actually have conserved fuel due to better mpg. This does run counter to Con's argument about fuel efficiency, but I buy the numerical analysis I'm given in round, even if it's a small boost.

So, from Con, I'm buying the environmental impact as explained above, as well as the reduced purchase of new cars and a lack of general economic stimulation. From Pro, I'm buying that there was some boost to fuel efficiency, economic stimulation specifically for the automotive industry, and at least decent returns on the initial investment.

E. SNAP

Not much went on here, but I decided to cover it separately. Pro states in R2 that the number of people on food stamps significantly increased, and extends this argument in R4 after it's dropped. He's winning the point, but there's just no meat to it. It's a one off citation without any substance to it. I can't see a viable impact coming out of this, and much as I could attribute a few to it, that has to be done in the debate. The lack of an impact leaves this rather weak.

Conclusion:

I could go back through each of the arguments and compare all of the major values, but I feel there's little reason to do so. I've spelled out as thoroughly as I can those arguments that will factor into this decision on the basis of whether or not they were clearly won by either side, and I think there's a bit going to each side.

What makes my decision rather straightforward, though, is how close each side gets to impacts and substance with the points they're winning. Neither side really terminalizes and explains why their points should matter on the grand scale, but both sides do at least have some arguments with substance and impacts that are close to terminal. But only one side really takes the time to explain their impacts early and often, providing substantial numbers and pulling more value from their sources, and that's Pro. Con does eventually pick up and run with a similar tactic, but by R4, it's a little late, and it functions too much on weak links to the major impacts. If the economics debate was closer, I'd likely still consider the environmental and foreign policy impacts, but Con is winning the majority of the economic arguments in the debate, even taking away a victory on Obamacare. The CARS program is somewhat close, and Con is winning that there's a significant harm to smaller banks, but without a clear harm coming from that, I'm left to prefer many of Pro's better quantified and explained points. The unemployment impact, in particular, seems very strong for his side, and has wide reaching implications.

Hence, I vote Pro.
ThinkBig
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8/16/2016 3:49:40 AM
Posted: 3 months ago
At 8/16/2016 3:43:47 AM, whiteflame wrote:
This is an RFD for the debate between Darenskiy and ThinkBig found here: http://www.debate.org...

I would like to thank you for your time and for an excellent RFD. I have learned a lot from this debate as I have not yet done a devil's advocate debate.
ThinkBig
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