Debating Politics Impacts- Focus on Evidence/Bias

There are many reasons politics is a popular disad on every topic, one of them is that it is generally a quick way to get to nuke war. No matter what the issue is, if its on the presidents agenda its a safe bet there will be people making hyperbolic statements about it. While most disads/advantages are always exaggerations, the impact evidence selected to read for politics is generally some of the worst.

That the evidence is bad, and more specifically that it is often biased, is an issue frequently brought up, less frequently focused on, and even less frequently a round winning issue. It should be.

Fishing for some examples I took a randoms troll through wiki town and grabbed some cards about the KORUS-FTA which has been and will be for the foreseeable future the most popular politics disad in high school and college. Some examples are more ridiculous than others, but all lend themselves to being defeated by an affirmative who aggressively pushes the bias issue.

Example 1- free trade. This impact is ludicrous- the claim being that our ability to get the free trade deal with South Korea will make or break global free trade. Before even looking at a card the empirically denied argument screams out t0 me- never had the trade deal before, have global trade. In addition the argument (prob requiring evidence) that this deal is tiny and insignificant are also round winners. The problem with these, and bias, as they are currently debated is the aff throws them out in the 2AC as blips , and the debate stops there. So in a 2AC I would phrase those two arguments like this

No Trade Impact

A. Empirically denied- global trade has progressed for decades without this deal, and the deal itself has been debated hotly for at least 5 years. There is no reason now is the key time to pass the deal or trade will collapse

B. The internal link is miniscule- South Korea is a tiny market, and the majority of liberalization is to allow easier exports into the US, an already saturated market in a country firmly in support of global trade. If trade is so sensitive to perception that failure of this deal will kill it, any number of past failures should of triggered the link- DOHA, Panama, etc.

Then I would stick to my guns and defend this argument, the neg isn’t going to just roll over. So lets move on to their card, they read the following “its key to trade” card:

CHANNEL NEWS ASIA  6 – 30 – 07
“US, SKorea set to sign free trade pact,”

Washington believes if the trade agreement is approved, it could trigger a wave of trade liberalization and economic reform throughout Asia, where it has such pacts only with Singapore and Australia at present.  South Korea is the seventh largest trading partner of the United States and a top military ally in Asia.  “From an economic standpoint, the potential benefits of the FTA to America’s workers, farmers, manufacturers, and service suppliers are undeniable,” deputy US Trade Representative Karan Bhatia told a Congressional hearing recently.

This card says a few things that sound impressive

-7th largest partner

-wave of liberalization

-benefits undeniable

But lets look at each of these things and deconstruct them.

“7th largest”- Seems like we already trade with them a great deal. Is this deal going to bump them up the chain somehow? Lets assume they were our 1st largest trading partner- why is that a warrant for why the deal is key to global free trade? Its not, its a totally irrelevant statistic- it in no way supports the claim that the deal is key to free trade.

“Wave of liberalization”- this comes from “washington” which means someone who supports the trade deal, so it is essentially trying to pass of a clearly biased statement as an authority. This is a perfect instance to use bias as an argument- when proponents of the trade deal make outlandish claims we should discount them. No explanation is given other than they hope it will set off a wave of liberalization- in fact it mentions that we already have made some deals in the region, why didn’t they set off this wave? This quote sounds good in isolation, but there is literally nothing to back it up.

“undeniable benefits”- there is a huge difference between benefits and key to global free trade.  Workers getting higher wages and being able to buy cheaper goods could be “undeniable benefits”, but there is no attempt made in the evidence to actually connect these benefits to the expansion of global trade. Apples are undeniably good for me, that doesn’t mean they help free trade. This statement again comes from the admin trade rep- who has a stake in the debate.

Now you don’t necessarily need to go through all of that, but to win on an evidence takeout like this you need to go through their warrants and attack them aggressively- not just keep repeating what you said earlier. This is what separates the mediocre from the good- after you make that argument in the 2AC, in the 1AR you need to respond to their evidence by attacking the specific warrants. If you do, it will be almost impossible for them to recover because they really haven’t made an argument.

Now lets look at an economy impact card

NEW YORK TIMES  7 – 1 – 07

SEOUL, South Korea, June 30 — The United States and South Korea on Saturday signed the largest free trade deal for Washington since the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1992, though Democratic leaders in Congress warned that they would not approve it. The United States trade representative, Susan C. Schwab, and South Korea’s trade minister, Kim Hyun-chong, signed the deal only hours before President Bush’s “fast-track” authority to negotiate such an agreement — one that Congress must approve or reject but cannot revise — was to expire Saturday.  If approved by the legislatures of both countries, the agreement could expand trade between the countries, already worth about $79 billion a year, as much as $20 billion, according to recent estimates by United States and South Korean economists.  The deal, known as the Korean Free Trade Agreement, calls for eliminating tariffs on 95 percent of consumer and industrial products on both sides within three years. It would also help South Korea’s export-driven economy fight increasing pressure from a high-tech Japan and a low-cost China. And it would give American companies an important foothold in the thriving Northeast Asian economy, where they have steadily ceded market share to Chinese, European and Japanese competitors.  “America’s economic future depends heavily on more free trade agreements like the one we are signing today with Korea,” Ms. Schwab said at a signing ceremony in Washington.

The meat of this card is at the end, the part I italicized. Lets run it through the same kind of questioning. It clearly does not say the US economy or global economy will collapse. It says deals LIKE KORUS are key, not just KORUS itself. And again, its coming from an insider (Schwab) with a stake in the debate. So while it does have that good line “economic future depends” it is not really saying “failure of KORUS=mead 92” which is what the neg is reading it to say.

To close, here is a bit better card than the ones we have gone through so far (which were somewhat easy, but in reality pretty typical). Post in the comments the kinds of arguments you would make/points you would bring up based on what the evidence says.

WSJ 12/6 “A Korea-U.S. Trade Deal, At Last”

What a long, strange trip it’s been for the South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement. The two sides announced this weekend that they’ve reached a deal on revisions to the draft that was signed in 2007 but never ratified. It comes not a moment too soon, given the boost this will give to a U.S. economy stumbling its way to recovery and with tensions rising on the Korean peninsula. The saga is also a lesson to future U.S. Presidents on the importance of trade leadership. Having campaigned against the pact in 2008, President Obama rediscovered its benefits once in office. Yet by then he was forced to re-open negotiations to justify his earlier opposition. The result is a deal that is slightly better than the excellent 2007 text in some ways, but slightly worse in others. And this after a delay that has cost the U.S. global credibility on economic issues, not to mention the cost to U.S. growth. The good news is that the 2007 agreement stays mostly in place. South Korea still offers significant opening of its sheltered economy to American manufactured goods, agriculture and services. Within five years of ratification the deal will eliminate tariffs on 95% of the countries’ trade in goods, and it also clears the way for greater trade in services by, for instance, opening Korea’s banking industry. Meanwhile, some of the changes to that 2007 text are helpful. The trade in cars was the main sticking point, especially as Detroit worried about Korea’s longstanding use of technical barriers like onerous safety standards to limit imports. Negotiators have added a provision that ensures new environmental standards proposed by Seoul over the past three years won’t become de facto trade barriers. Yet some of the new auto provisions are worse than what Detroit had before. Conspicuously, Korea’s current 8% tariff on imported U.S. cars—which would have been eliminated immediately upon ratification under the 2007 deal—now will be cut in half immediately but eliminated only after five years. Compare that to the European Union’s agreement with Korea, which is signed and due to take effect next July. That deal gradually phases out Korea’s 8% car tariff over four years. That means that over the next few years Detroit will miss what would have been the advantage of zero tariffs compared to rates of 2% to 6% on EU cars, and toward the end of the five-year period tariffs on EU cars will be lower than on American cars. View Full Image Associated Press President Barack Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak The biggest mistake Mr. Obama and Democrats made was allowing one vocal lobby—Detroit and its unions—to hijack debate on a comprehensive deal covering almost all trade. Consider the main “victory” for Detroit: Korea has agreed to let America phase out its 25% tariff on pickup trucks more slowly. That will come at a stiff price to American buyers of those trucks, including many small businesses that delayed purchases during the recession. Some farmers have also become collateral damage. Seoul couldn’t walk away from re-opened talks empty-handed, and one concession it extracted is a two-year delay, to 2016, in eliminating tariffs on some U.S. pork. American pork producers are excited about any deal, but they still would have been better off under the 2007 text. Chilean pork already enjoys lower tariffs thanks to the Chile-Korea FTA and has been gaining market share. The new tariff-elimination date also falls only six months before Korea’s tariffs on EU pork will end under that deal, leaving Americans far less than the two-and-a-half years they would have had under the earlier text to get a marketing jump on their competitors. These caveats should not deter Congress from ratifying what is still an excellent deal. Mr. Obama has asked GOP House Speaker-designate John Boehner to assist in getting the pact approved, and we’re told Mr. Boehner has suggested grouping this deal together with pending agreements with Colombia and Panama in a single House vote. This would make it easier for pro-trade forces in Congress to concentrate their political capital. Mr. Boehner will bring a majority or more of his GOP Members along, but Mr. Obama will have to spend his own political capital to rebuild American public support for free trade and gain Democratic support. The President would have made more progress toward his goal of doubling American exports if he had supported this deal in 2008 and pressed it through Congress in 2009. The failure in leadership was to side with the United Auto Workers and other unions against the national interest. Those who think they’ll lose from trade always have the strongest motivation to lobby, while the consumers and businesses that benefit (such as American pickup truck buyers) are harder to organize. Every American President since Hoover in the 1920s has taken the broad view, speaking up for the many trade beneficiaries. U.S. public support for freer trade has eroded amid the recession and the lack of Presidential leadership. It is crucial for U.S. competitiveness in particular, and the world economy more broadly, that Mr. Obama and his allies make a strong and unapologetic case that trade is in the best interests of American businesses and workers.

8 thoughts on “Debating Politics Impacts- Focus on Evidence/Bias

  1. Ryan Marcus

    Well… I don't think anyone thinks politics impacts are great or even good.

    It seems like the arguments you are suggesting are defensive. Alright, so there's a risk it's empirically denied, there's a risk it's bias, and there's a risk it is insignificant. None of that matters if my XO CP solves 100% of the aff and doesn't link to politics.

    It's generic, it's quick, it's a debate most people are comfortable with, and it provides an impact that a CP can easily avoid.

    So, strategically, against politics, you can:

    1. Go for these defensive arguments and hope that your solvency deficit on the CP is large enough to outweigh the mitigated DA.

    2. Turn the politics DA (impact, link, uniqueness, whatever), which gives you offense against both the DA and the CP.

    I think there's a reason that most politics blocks tend to be some uniqueness (defense) and link turns (offense). Uniqueness seems like it would be substantially stronger defense then this kind of impact mitigation… but that's certainly an opinion.

    Politics impact cards should certainly be indicted to gain critical defense against politics impacts, but I don't think that you can really win rounds on that kind of defense. If it comes down to politics vs. case, the aff should probably be able to win… but in a world where a CP solves a very large portion of the aff, offense against politics becomes way more strategic (in my opinion) than even terminal impact defense…

    1. Christian Chessman

      //It seems like the arguments you are suggesting are defensive. Alright, so there's a risk it's empirically denied, there's a risk it's bias, and there's a risk it is insignificant. None of that matters if my XO CP solves 100% of the aff and doesn't link to politics. //

      This kind of analysis is a reason why policy debate continues to get farther and farther from reality.

      1. Ryan Marcus

        Eh… I don't know…

        If plan A produces result X with risk Y, and plan B produces result X with risk Z, then it seems perfectly realistic to choose between plan A and plan B by Y < Z or Z < Y.

        I think this is the kind of analysis you end up getting when you are only comparing two different options, but it seems like slight modifications to a plan to avoid even slight risks is completely realistic…

        But I do see your point. Debate is an academic engagement, though. Not a model of real world policy making, even if we do discuss real world policies.

    2. Ross Garrett

      The argument the uniqueness is better mitigation than impact defense is something that should be set clear. Uniqueness cards are actually a lot better for the neg than the cards Scott has given. It is certainly much more probable that South Korea FTA will pass than that it solves US economic problems and all free trade. This makes it substantially easier for negatives to debate the uniqueness questions.
      While uniqueness debating may be easier (read more mindless) in most debates because AFF debaters can just throw out some cards and the judge will grant the uniqueness is hurt somewhat, there is a difference between that level of mitigation to a DA and the level required to make the rest of your offense viable. The impact arguments presented here should be able to reduce the risk of the impacts to a very small amount in almost all circumstances because the negative just doesn't have a good response. Strategically that makes these types of arguments more valuable because the negative answers are more static than uniqueness and they have no good literature base to answer your arguments with.

    3. Kevin

      If the aff wins that the evidence is biased, there is equal chance that it's true and the opposite of true.

      i.e. with no reason to believe SKFTA helps free trade, there's an equal chance that it hurts free trade as much as helps it. This is especially true given the nebulousness of "free trade" as a concept – the disadvantage assumes a decline in free trade without SK, without evidence there's no reason to believe that this is the case.

      Thus you're presented 4 worlds with equal probability –
      1. Free Trade will decline, and SKFTA will boost free trade – neg is ahead
      2. Free Trade will decline, and SKFTA does nothing/makes it worse – there's no DA
      3. Free Trade will rise, and SKFTA does nothing/boosts free trade – there's no DA
      4. Free Trade will rise, and SKFTA makes it worse – aff is ahead

      Given equal chance of any of these being true, the judge shouldn't evaluate the DA at all.

  2. Stephen Pipkin

    I don't think Scott is saying go all in on only defense vs the politics disad, I think he's just saying that good teams make a variety of arguments against politics, one of which should be indicts of the impact. This is clearly a good idea. Teams will rarely win 100% CP solvency or 100% of a link against good teams. Impact debates are where those rounds often end up being decided. Obviously, yes, if your terrible XO CP solves 100% of the case and the aff is going for just defense, they are boned, but that situation is relatively rare. Smart affs know how to make good solvency deficits against new counter-plans, and in those situations being able to make good defensive arguments against the net benefit makes the aff's life a lot easier.

    Side note: link turns without uniqueness are defense.

    1. Ryan Marcus

      Ah, I see. I didn't think of reading the "winning rounds" part of the original post as "winning rounds when combined with…". That makes a lot more sense.

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