[eDebate] In defense of a Health Care Topic (was RE: Ag good- and best domestic topic)

Joshua Gonzalez gonza310
Wed Apr 30 10:55:09 CDT 2008

I'll offer a few brief reasons why I respectfully disagree with the claim
that agriculture represents the best choice of domestic topic.  I'll deal
with each of Phil's claims in turn, and add some general arguments

> 1. No viable states counterplan.
> As the topic paper points out, one of the downfalls of 
> domestic topics are the affs don't have good answers to the 
> states CP.  This can be a serious problem, especially since 
> negs win most solvency debates unless the aff has really 
> really good 'USFG key' cards, and the neg has really really 
> bad 'states key' cards.  I think the other topics are 
> susceptible to states (health care even mentions states as 
> possible neg ground).  States CP debates are boring and 
> stale.  Ag gets out of states CP debates-there is no way for 
> the states to reform federal subsidies in the farm bill.  
> There are also no solvency advocates for states reforming ag 
> (whatever that would look like).

Phil suggests that states counterplan debates are generally stale and
boring, and I am prone to agree, but only in the sense that they are
GENERALLY stale and boring.  When the question of state versus federal
regulation represents an important and well-debated controversy within the
core literature surrounding a topic, the states counterplan is anything BUT
stale and boring.  It is one thing to suggest that the Lopez CP is lame, or
that there wasn't great comparative solvency evidence on the energy topic
(even though Mass v. EPA proves that claim more or less wrong).  However,
when the health care plan announced by John McCain yesterday would expressly
strip some of the federal government's regulatory power and allow
inter-state mobility for insurance purchases, suffice it to say the lit is
there for real debates about this.  For an example of some of the strong
reaction to the McCain plan, please check out this link:


Moreover, Phil makes the concession that the presense of good "fed gov key"
warrants goes a long way toward remedying the shortcomings of states strats.
The health care topic paper points out three such warrants, in the form of
ERISA pre-emptions, CMS funding requirements, and state diversity problems
as powerful examples of such arguments, here:


Yes, we believe that states CPs will be an important part of a health care
topic, but there's no reason to be afraid of the states CP boogeyman.

> 2.  Advantages are cooler
> This has been talked about a lot in previous threads, so I 
> won't go into too much detail.  However, keep in mind that 
> only ag has such grave impacts both domestic and 
> international.  Ag highly impacts state economies, has 
> seriously damaged the environment, is possibly the cause 
> behind a global poverty and hunger crisis, is preventing WTO 
> talks and free trade agreements, hurts relations with 
> developing countries, etc. 
> There is some good advantage areas on the other topics, but 
> nothing with same immediacy and explosive potential as ag.  
> The amount of variety is unmatched.

I think that there is a dilemma with any subsidies topic that I have not yet
seen discussed, one of resolutional wording.  Given that the initial
controversy ballot specifies that the aff should "Decrease agricultural
subsidies in the United States," I fear that one of two major problems can
arise.  Either:

A: The resolution would call for large, across-the-board cuts in subsidies,
creating a devastating array of PICs for the negative.  Given Ag supporters
claims to the immense number and variety of agricultural subsidies given by
the USFG (the very source of the variety of advantages claimed as a benefit
to an ag topic), the "PIC of the week" is a scary proposition, give that
affs would essentially have to be prepared to defend nearly every subsidy
offered by the government.  


B: The resolution would require targeted reductions in subsidies, which
merely reverses the burdens spoken of above, creating new "affs of the
week," instead of PICs.  A high number of "hyper-specific" affirmatives is
potentially even worse that PICs, insofar as it that sort of negative
preparation burden that often causes a resort to complentarily
"hyper-generic" negative strategies, i.e., condition CPs, consult CPs, etc.

In either event, I feel as if there is a very nasty dilemma, and one that
does not, at first glance, seem easily avoided.

Finally, isn't there pretty strong evidence that the EU will not reciprocate
US subsidy cuts, give that Mandelson wasn't able to secure reciprocal
concession to the US offer back in 05-06?  Also, where was the reciprocal
commitment on the part of developing nations to the US offer?  If memory
serves, we pretty much got the middle finger last time we tried...

> 3.  Actual solvency advocates.
> Many articles on this topic will outline a harm area, 
> prescribe a policy solution, and (most importantly) discuss 
> why that solution solves-all in one article from a qualified 
> source.  There are lots of solvency advocates outlining 
> specific proposals like that on this topic.  I think Ag does 
> the best job of giving the aff solid, well-written proposals 
> that have lots of good solvency evidence.  I think that's 
> especially important with the growing neg bias in debate.  
> Add in the fact that the other domestic topics have states 
> CPs to worry about as well, and it becomes a nightmare going 
> aff.  Good solvency advocates with ag also have the effect of 
> improving case debates, etc.

While I am admittedly ignorant of the ins and outs of ag policy lit, this is
unquestionably a major, major strength of the health care topic.  Again,
I'll stake everything I've got on the claim that it would be the deepest and
most specific lit base in the history of a debate topic.  I point you to the
"options for policy change" portion of the topic paper (at
http://www.cedatopic.com/Health_Care_08.pdf#page=24) for a more detailed

> 4.  Good counterplans.
> Some people have criticized the amount of neg ground on this topic. 
> However, I think the ag paper does one of the best jobs of 
> outlining specific neg policy options, all with evidence.  A 
> lot of the other domestic topics might just devolve into 
> states CPs, or XO, etc.  I don't think many of the other 
> domestic papers have outlined, in detail, what some of the 
> specific generic neg positions would be.  Ag has a lot of 
> good, clear generic CPs with solvency advocates.  Caps/limits 
> and condition CPs have been discussed a lot already.  But the 
> paper also outlines a good EU CP, subsidizing other crops, 
> removal of other trade barriers, etc.  I think Quigley 
> pointed out the litany of PICs that would also be available.
> The great thing is that many of the good generic disads are 
> linked to these CPs as natural, non-contrived net benefits.  
> For example, the trade credibility DA works perfectly with 
> the condition CP or EU CP.  Many of the solvency advocates of 
> the CPs write the DA arguments as well.

This is the second major, major problem I see with an ag topic, namely the
exalting of condition CPs as a key part of negative ground.  Didn't we just
do this on the middle east topic?  And didn't it suck?  Admittedly, I didn't
travel as much as in years past, but it doesn't take judging more than one
or two "add a condition is good-bad" debates to significantly reduce my
nostalgia for judging 80+ rounds a year.  

Given the apparent concession that consultation CPs reside in the seventh
circle of hell in every topic discussion thus far, it doesn't follow that
conditioning CPs would place us in paradise. 

> 5.  Best critical ground.
> I agree with JP that we shouldn't be looking for specifically 
> good "K ground" or "politics ground" or whatever when 
> choosing a topic.  But I think it's worth noting if the "K 
> ground" is particularly good on a particular topic 
> (especially when we've had 2 foreign topics in the last 3 
> years that access essentially the same K ground).  The best 
> thing about ag is not just there are lots of Ks to read, but 
> lots of Ks that span the ideological spectrum.  This is 
> something that is unique to the ag topic. 
> For example, you can read two completely different critical 
> affs- one with 'right-wing' libertarian/CATO/free market 
> ind.rights like arguments, and one with 'leftist' US 
> exceptionalism, poverty, animal rights and development 
> arguments.  On the neg, there are great environmental Ks, 
> imperialism Ks (different from last year's orientalism Ks-Ks 
> on ag would talk more about cycles of dependency created by 
> trade), and free trade Ks.
>  The point is, groups from all over the political map are 
> critical about ag subsidies (albeit for different reasons), 
> and write lots of good lit about it.  What this means for 
> debates is more flexibility-one can feel free to run a litany 
> of arguments from a wide array of perspectives and not feel 
> constrained by one particular ideological view.

First, JP is right, K ground happens, given that the aff generally winds up
having to defend some form of modernity and can usually be spun as
exemplifying some sort of bad metaphysics, etc.  But I think that the
inevitability of critique ground is not a reason to ignore qualitative
comparisons between the relative link specificty afforded by competing
topics.  Again, this is a place where I think the health care topic wins,
hands down.  

For example, if a post-structuralist take on power is your thing, there's a
good book about it in relation to health care
3346/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1209570205&sr=8-1).  The whole
evolution of this thesis into "bio-power" is, I think, relevant to a topic
about the universal promotion of health and life.

Yes, there are a number of critiques of development policy and US global
food policy rooted in post-colonial and world systems marxist literature,
but if you're looking for critique bang for your buck, as well as highly
developed and evidenced DEFENSES of more traditional policy, I still think a
health care topic is the way to go.  It is an opportunity to finally engage
the debate about these issues within one of the locations in the academy in
which they occur.  This specific engagement should not be overlooked, since
it gives recpirocal access to quality literature to both aff and neg.

Thanks for listening,


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