NFHS Topic Summary:
Economic inequality permeates all areas of American life and has a profound psychological and material influence on American society. Economic inequality influences life expectancy, physical and mental health, economic mobility and educational attainment. Inequality multiplies across generations and generates disenchantment with politics and our entire system of government.
Contemporary times have been dedicated to understanding this important issue from multiple perspectives. Economists, political scientists, legal scholars, philosophers, and people from many other fields have discussed a wide range of causes and potential solutions to the inequality dilemma. Under the proposed topic, affirmative teams would fiscally redistribute resources in three areas: a basic income, federal jobs guarantee and expanded social security. Fiscal redistribution requires a process of tax and transfer of resources. In addition, each of those areas has multiple sub-areas that allow more affirmative specificity. For example, an affirmative could advocate a wealth tax to fund a universal or means-tested basic income. An affirmative could also advocate for a corporate tax to fund a larger Social Security payment or a lower Social Security age.
Negative teams will have a wide arsenal of arguments at their disposal, such as arguments about workability, economic disruption, political feasibility, funding tradeoffs, or alternative ways to address economic inequality without fiscal redistribution. In addition, the negative would have a strong critique of using economics as the starting point for structuring societal changes and a critique of capitalism that is particularly strong versus the jobs and Social Security parts of the resolution.
The public education system portrays itself as a promoter of expanded opportunity, yet fails to focus on inequality and potential solutions. Unfortunately, such a discussion has been relatively sparse in high school debate. Although economic inequality has been an ancillary feature of some recent topics, it has not been the core focus since the 2009-2010 social services topic. This topic allows everyone the chance to debate systemic economic inequality, not solely programs aimed to mitigate absolute poverty. A season of debate, focused specifically on economic inequality, can create an opportunity to fully engage with such an immense literature base and form fully developed opinions on issues that directly impact their everyday lives. According to Inside Higher Ed, doing so is a precondition for “healing the wounds of the past, generating social solidarity and rebuilding a more just society.”