First Negative Speech in Pro-Con Debate Format
(First Negative Constructive - 4 mins)
Honorable judge(s), worthy opponents, interested onlookers,
patient time-keeper and Mr./ Mdm. Moderator, we urge you
to reject the resolution and help us in suggesting that gov=ts
should NOT run deficits.
I will outline 3 major arguments that will convince you that
the resolution proposed by the Affirmative team is designed
to do nothing more than create more problems. Their plan
will not solve the problem/ creates a problem that doesn=t
exist/ is not as effective as our counter-plan. We believe that
1) debt is a necessary tool of the modern state, 2) other
options include cutting back on inefficient government
programs, and 3) historical lesson of unintentional deficits.
1. Debt is a necessary tool of the modern state.
a) ADeficits are not a sin but a necessity.@
b) Debt reduction exclusively bad policy because it rules out
doing what gov=ts should do during economic recession or
c) Why our obsession with debt reduction now?
2. Options include cutting back on inefficient government
a) Keynesian economic theory still dominates gov=t fiscal
policy of last 50 years.
3. Historical lesson of unintentional deficits
a) most economists agree raising taxes or cutting gov=t
spending (or both) big mistake in recessionary times.
b) Martin=s ABalanced Budget@ Policies of 1990=s.
c) Walkerton Water Scandal largely seen as a product of gov=t
program reductions caused by the budget.
My partner will argue, 4) first, national deficits are flexible,
5) second, gov=ts obsessed by sustaining unsustainable
debt-loads forget basic nature of money, and finally, 6) Does
this mean that gov=ts should not pay their debts.
Before we advance our own position on the issue, I would
like to respond to several of the points made by my
Now for my arguments.
1.a) Debt is a necessary tool of the modern state. (political
$ ADeficits are not a sin but a necessity.@ (William Vickrey,
Cdn economist + Columbia University professor)
$ Even with present deficit, Canada in an enviable fiscal
situation, gov=t officials say
$ Canada's debt-to-GDP ratio 23.4% in 2007; forecast to rise to
28% in 2010.
$ Even with increase, Canada still maintains position as having
lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in the G8
1.b) Debt reduction exclusively bad policy because it rules
out doing what gov=ts should do during economic recession
$ debt reduction or Abalanced budget legislation@ (BBL)
perhaps most damaging gov=t policy because of how it defines
role of government.
$ concept of AGood government@ + budgets about more than
balancing the books.
$ good budgets should equally be about smoothing out
inevitable boom and bust cycles of market economies
$ about offsetting growing gap between rich and poor by
engaging in some redistribution of income and wealth
$ about caring for poor and elderly
$ about helping unemployed
$ about building up society's infrastructure
$ about providing for people's health + education + protecting
$ debt reduction + BBL limits gov=t's ability to properly
perform all these functions.
1.c) Why our obsession with debt reduction now?
$ why not a "Right to Free and Comprehensive Medical and
Home Care Act"?
$ why not an "Anti-Poverty Act" commiting all future gov=ts
to meet clear targets for reduction of poverty?
$ why not "Adequate Income Act" guaranting right to income
assistance when in need?
$ why not "Post-Secondary Accessibility Act" guaranteeing
steady decline in tuition + steady increase in spaces?
$ what about a "Child Care Act" ensuring gov=t's recent
initiatives evolve into comprehensive system
$ "Minimum Wage Act" promising to tie the minimum wage to
the poverty line?
2.a) Other options include cutting back on inefficient
government programs Keynesian economic theory still
dominates gov=t fiscal policy of last 50 years. (economic
$ theory recommends deficit spending to moderate or end
recession, especially a severe one.
$ when economy has high unemployment, increase in gov=t
purchases creates a market for business output, creating income
and encouraging increases in consumer spending, which creates
further increases in the demand for business output; known as
$ raises GDP (gross domestic product) + employment levels
$ if all else is constant, lowers unemployment rate: this
connection between GDP + unemployment called Okun's Law
$ cutting personal taxes and/or raising transfer payments can
have similar expansionary effects; most economists would say
that such policies have weaker effects
3.a) Historical lesson of unintentional deficits (historical
$ most economists agree raising taxes or cutting gov=t
spending (or both) big mistake in recessionary times
$ U.S. President Herbert Hoover
$ Herbert Clark Hoover , the 31st President of the United States
, was a successful mining engineer, humanitarian, and
$ made Great Depression
$ Great Depression was a worldwide Recession which started
in 1929 and lasting through most of the 1930s....
$ greater by raising taxes (+ cutting demand further) in early
$ Instead, should have relied on increased deficit to moderate
$ called automatic (or built-in) stabilization.
$ similarly, rise in GDP and employment automatically causes
gov=t deficit to shrink in size, discouraging over-heating and
$ thus when gov=t deficits Anot intentional@, (result of policy
decisions) gov=ts must act
$ when economy goes into a recession (as presently, due to
monetary policy), deficits usually rise, at least in U.S. + Canada
$ with less economic activity, progressive tax system implies
tax revenues automatically fall; gov=ts loose power to mediate
destructive impact of recession
$ similarly, transfer payments such as unemployment insurance
benefits and food stamp grants rise in order to stave off
systemic, long-tern effects
$ federal government of R.B. Bennett prioritized trying to
balance budget through much of the Great Depression of the
$ For this we do not applaud them; rather, we rightly hold them
responsible for unnecessarily deepening and prolonging the
$ failed to heed the advice of economist John Maynard Keynes,
who recommended that in times of economic downturn, good
policy prescribes running a deficit in order to give the economy
a needed boost.
3.b) Martin=s ABalanced Budget@ Policies of 1990=s.
$ no disagreement that deficit Paul Martin + Liberals inherited
had to be dramatically reduced or eliminated in 1993
$ more importantly upward spiral in federal debt burden had to
be quickly arrested and reversed.
$ no doubt that Canada became fiscal star among G8
$ but Martin's reputation as tough and prudent budgeter not
$ closer look at Canada's finances during Martin era suggests
important errors made on the road to the balanced budget,
producing unnecessary but lasting social and economic harm.
$ Canada's total public deficits (federal and provincial) from
1991 through 1993 averaged 8 percent of GDP---twice the G8
$ however, by 1996 Canada's deficit smaller than any other G8
economy except U.S.
$ by next year deficit was history (beating other G8 economies
to Abalanced budget@ by 1 to 3 years).
$ during late 1990s fiscal balance experienced broadly by all
industrialized countries(18 industrialized countries balanced
their budgets late in the decade
Most economists agree as a result of accelerated global growth
and steep decline in global interest rates.
$ Canada's fiscal turnaround was unique when compared with
others in severity of cuts to program spending, which were
much deeper than any other major industrialized country.
$ gov=t program spending, measured as a share of GDP,
declined by 10 percentage points in Canada between 1992 and
2002 while in other nations whole, program spending stayed
roughly constant as a share of GDP.
$ Some countries restored fiscal balance with hardly any
spending cuts at all---and in some cases, while actually
increasing government spending.
$ Martin could have overseen quick elimination of huge deficit
which his government inherited, in line with his official
timetable, yet without imposing a single dollar of program
$ so many other industrialized countries eliminated deficits
during latter 1990s; most of them more gradually than Canada,
and without dramatic reductions in program expenditure
$ supports our view as Opposition that real choices remain
3.c) Walkerton Water Scandal largely seen as a product of
gov=t program reductions caused by the budget.
$ Still have Ahealth care crises@, even some deaths caused by
government cuts (hospital line-ups, driving to Buffalo for an
MRI convince much of the public that cutbacks have gone too
far--more spending is needed.
$ but no political party is willing to campaign on tax increases,
for fear of the backlash from business groups and corporate
$ obsession with debt reduction does not allow gov=t to
consider other options other than reducing deficit spending,
even if such collective spending means citizens spend less on
bottled water and private health care, or on inequitable user fees.
So the crises remain a permanent fact of life.
In summary, I have argued that the government=s plan fails
in three significant ways : 1) debt is a necessary tool of the
modern state, 2) other options include cutting back on
inefficient gov=t programs, and 3) historical lesson of
unintentional deficits. Has the Government been successful
today in suggesting how their plan is cheaper/safer/more
productive/or more effective or why it is better than the
status quo? No. For these reasons the resolution that gov=ts
should NOT run deficits must fall. I am now open for
cross-examination. (2 mins)
(First Negative - 2mins)
Mr. / Mdm. Moderator, the Affirmative team has put
forward some interesting arguments, which at best, view the
issue before us in a narrow manner. In their closing
arguments you will hear them claim:
But has this been sufficient to persuade you of the
Affirmative team=s position on this resolution. The answer
is clearly NO. Their arguments fall apart specifically in the
We have always contended that this resolution MUST fail
because we, the opposition, have provided you with the most
compelling reasons of which my partner will give evidence.
He/ she will state that 4) first, national deficits are flexible, 5)
second, gov=t=s obsessed by sustaining unsustainable
debt-loads forget basic nature of money, and finally, 6) Does
this mean that gov=ts should not pay their debts.
And so for these reasons your Mr./ Mdm. Moderator, we
feels confident that the Negative side in this debate has
presented you with a compelling case so that you too will
have no choice but to defeat this resolution that gov=ts
should NOT run a deficit. Thank you very much.
Second Negative Speech in Pro-Con Debate Format
(Second Negative Constructive - 4 mins)
Mr./ Mdm. Moderator, Honourable judge(s), interested
onlookers and patient time-keeper, we urge you to reject the
resolution and join us in defeating this resolution that gov=ts
should Not run a deficit.
As part of our own counter-plan, my partner argued that 1)
debt is a necessary tool of the modern state, 2) other options
include cutting back on inefficient government programs,
and 3) historical lesson of unintentional deficits. In short the
Affirtmative=s plan is unreasonable/ unenforceable/ not
better than the current arrangement/ would cause other
problems/ challenges fundamental values/ ineffective in
solving the problem for the following reasons:
My partner, on the other hand, argued that the resolution
before us today is designed to: 1) debt is a necessary tool of
the modern state, 2) other options include cutting back on
inefficient government programs, and 3) historical lesson of
Further, I would add that: 4) first, national deficits are
flexible, 5) second, gov=ts obsessed by sustaining
unsustainable debt-loads forget basic nature of money, and
lastly, 6) this does not mean that gov=ts should NOT pay
4.a). National deficits are flexible. (philosophic argument)
$ gov=ts set terms of their debt load; have variety of political
means to renegotiate them
$ AThere is not one example of a nation becoming rich by
paying its debtsYThere are dozens of examples of nations
becoming rich by defaulting or renegotiating.@ (John Ralston
Saul, political philosopher, 1994)
4.b) National debts are NOT unforgiving gods with the
power to control, alter and if necessary destroy countries.
$ logically we call this a Afinancial trap@ usually presented as
if it we were the first generation to confront deficits in our time
$ as well, some see this as profound comment on our wasteful,
shamelessly immoral, recklessly extravagant habits as Cdns
$ reality may be less disturbing.
$ building up of unsustainable debt loads commonplace in
building up of unsustainable debt loads is a commonplace in
$ several standard means of resolving problem historically:
default outright, simply renegotiate terms, or execute/ exile
lenders to achieve partial default + low interest rates.
$ think Queen Elizabeth + threat of Spanish Armanda;
$ was in English the national interest to fight off Spanish threat
and seek dominance of shipping lanes as New World brought
promises of valuable new commodities
$ defeat of Spanish, financed in part by a huge national debt,
made possible English dominance and imperial ascension that
lasted for the next 300 years
$ only possible by incurring debt
4.c) Athenian model.
$ 6th century B.C. King Solon took power of debt-crippled
$ organization of general default---historically known as Athe
shaking off of the burdens@---set city-state on road to
democracy and prosperity.
$ Athens still remembered as central inspiration of Western
Civilization direct product of national debt.
$ one way or another, most Western countries, including U.S.,
have done same at some point.
$ most national defaults lead to sustained periods of prosperity.
5.a) Gov=ts obsessed by sustaining unsustainable debt-loads
forget basic nature of money. (philosophic argument)
$ it is a Acurrency@ open for negotiation between lender and
$ today worth this much; yesterday worth this much
$ Debts---both public and private---become unsustainable when
the borrower=s cash flow no longer handily carries the interest
payments. Once a national economy has lost that rate of cash
flow, it is unlikely to get it back. The weight of the debt on the
economy makes it impossible.
$ societies obsessed by sustaining unsustainable debt-loads
forget that philosophically, money is not real.
$ conscious agreement on measuring abstract value in the
$ unhealthy societies often become mesmerized by money and
treat it as if it were something concrete.
$ such an obsession destroys currency=s practical value.
5.b) Canadians should consider carefully whether these $3
billion annual repayment to the debt are genuinely
$ which would they consider more important, + prudent, act of
government: say, national public housing program which could
help to eliminate homelessness (a generous federal contribution
to which would be $3 billion per year), or making sure that our
debt/GDP ratio declines to 25 percent by 2012 instead of 2013?
$ since Mr. Martin's first budget in 1994, Ottawa has beaten its
own bottom-line budget targets nine years in a row.
$ cumulative Aoverperformance@ (actual balance versus
budgeted balance) now equals staggering $80 billion.
$ becomes clear that nothing accidental about
overperformance: preordained by set of artificial assumptions +
practices all oriented toward making Ottawa's fiscal situation
look worse than it actually was.
5.c) We need honest debate about national priorities NOT
$ instead of facilitating honest debate among Cdns about how
available resources should most effectively be allocated, +
national priorities, Finance officials expend more energy trying
to convince Canadians that those resources are not even there.
$ as a result, only thing we now know for sure about official
budget forecasts: not intended to be accurate.
$ aspect of federal budget-making started with Martin's dubious
legacy as Finance Minister + obsession with debt reduction.
$ instead of concluding that Martin a hero for leading
Canadians in an epic battle to eliminate the deficit (a battle
which, after all, 18 industrialized countries accomplished with
greater ease), perhaps we should be asking why he implemented
such dramatic reductions in government programs that have
been enduringly painful yet, in retrospect, were unnecessary.
6.a) Does this mean that gov=ts should not pay their debts?
Not exactly. (Prudent management argument)
$ gov=ts need freedom to manage affairs of the state
$ U.S. President Obama inherited deficit for 2009 of $1.2
trillion, which will rise to more than $1.5 trillion, given initial
spending from his recently enacted stimulus package.
$ yet his budget blueprint for the 2010 fiscal year, beginning
Oct. 1, will include a 10-year projection showing annual deficit
decline to $533 billion in 2013
$ suggests a two-thirds reduction, exceeding Mr. Obama=s
goal of at least half, advisers note that the current deficit as a
starting point inflated by Aone-time expenses to stimulate the
economy.@ (New York Times, Feb.21, 2009)
6.b) Non-payment of debts carries no moral weight.
$ only moral standards recognized in Western society as being
relevant to lending are those which identify profit made from
loans as sin.
$ loans themselves are mere contracts and therefore cannot
carry moral value as John Ralston Saul points out.
$ all businessman know, contracts are to be respected whenever
all businessman know, contracts are to be respected whenever
$ when not possible, regulations exist to aid default or
renegotiation; for example, in the U.S. known as Chapter 11
$ in Cda known as Aconsumer proposal@ negotiated settlement
between debtor and creditors
$ businessmen regularly do both and happily walk away
6.c) Balanced Budget legislation would function like a pair of
$ balanced budget legislation (BBL) makes for trendy public
policy, but it is not good public policy.
$ balancing the budget is an important goal, however, it is only
one of many, and should not be enshrined in legislation to the
exclusion of other worthy goals.
$ BBL currently exists in four Canadian provinces: Alberta,
Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick. BBL makes
running a deficit illegal, and in some cases requires that tax
increases be put to a referendum.
$ Alberta's and Manitoba's BBL is most stringent, while
Saskatchewan's and New Brunswick's is more flexible.
$ but in all cases, actual purpose of BBL is quite clear: to bind
the hands of government.
$ BBL encourages public sector downsizing, forecloses on new
public programs (like universal child and home care), locks in
place spending and tax cuts, and prevents governments from
providing an economic stimulus during times of recession.
$ sounds pretty good to some (indeed, it is a neo-conservative's
dream). But consider the following scenarios:
$ Canadian Alliance (or Finance Minister Jim Flaherty for that
matter) wins future federal election + implements drastic cuts in
provincial transfer payments for health, education and welfare
(as happened in 1995).
$ provincial government caught: would like to absorb cuts by
running deficit, but BBL outlaws this.
$ So province left with no choice but to pass cuts on; spending
on important public programs is slashed.
For these reasons, we believe the Affirmative plan is
unreasonable/ unenforceable/ not better than the current
arrangement/ would cause other problems/ challenges
fundamental values/ ineffective in solving the problem and
this resolution, that gov=ts should NOT run deficits must
fall. Thank you. I am now open for cross-examination. (2
(Second Negative - 2 mins)
Mr/ Mdm Speaker, ladies and gentleman, patient
time-keeper, and honoured judge(s), the Affirmative team
has provided you with a plan that is NOT clear, NOT
compelling and NOT convincing. From the onset, we have
always believed this resolution to be untenable and
unworkable, that gov=ts should NOT run deficits. Yet the
Affirmative team uncritically accepts that running deficits is
the most irresponsible act a gov=t can perform. In fact,
limiting the ability of a nation to grow and prosper is. The
truth of the matter, ladies and gentlemen, is very different.
And all of us in this room realize that technically, the
Affirmative plan must fall if any one of its specific conditions
is conclusively challenged. We believe we have identified the
weaknesses of the Affirmative team=s plan and arguments:
My colleague and I have presented a portrait of this issue
that emphasizes 4) first, national deficits are flexible, 5)
second, gov=ts obsessed by sustaining unsustainable
debt-loads forget basic nature of money, and lastly, 6) this
does not mean that gov=ts should NOT pay their debts. It is
an approach that is based on sound logical principles and
compelling research that the Affirmative side would rather
you did not hear. Their plan is unreasonable/ unenforceable/
not better than the current arrangement/ would cause other
problems/ challenges fundamental values/ ineffective in
solving the problem. Moreover, it is precisely for these
reasons Mr./ Mdm. Moderator, that you, and those present
in this room, MUST defeat this resolution that gov=ts should
NOT run deficits. Thank you very much.