Saturday, June 16, 2012

Exploding Obamamobiles: The best case you never heard

Now that NITOC is over and no team outside of my club can steal this idea for their own purposes (unless they want to do topicality gymnastics), I am happy to share this invincible case with all my good friends and rivals.  It really is a flawless plan, perfect in reality and great fun to debate for both sides... I wish that my partner and I had had more time with it.  Unfortunately, I was out of the action for about two months after losing my first partner.  The stuff of tragedy.


Ending electric car subsidies
Chevy Volt buyers are some of the few people who celebrate Earth Day and Tax Day at once.  They claim to save the planet, but they also get to save 7 thousand dollars on their federal income taxes.
These “green” tax credits, stemming from Obama’s misguided war on oil, are a waste of taxpayer dollars, fundamentally unfair, surprisingly regressive, and damaging to the economy.  Throughout the round, we’ll be persuading you that the “Chevy Volt tax credit” is harmful and unnecessary, and that the U.S. Federal Government should substantially reform its revenue generation policies.

We extend the criterion of free commerce to judge this debate.  The team that best defends capitalism and the free market ought to be the victors, for freedom is the foundation of American values.

Let us first give some definitions of important terms.
Definitions
1. Revenue Generation PolicyA policy which aims to raise income to a source
Therefore, to fulfill the resolution, we must reform the manner in which the federal government collects its revenue.
2. Tax credit
From the Department of Energy,
Fueleconomy.Gov (the official U.S. government source for fuel economy information), “Tax Incentives: Frequently Asked Questions” http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/taxfaqs.shtml#q1
A tax credit reduces the total amount of income tax you owe.
Thus, in modifying tax credits, you simultaneously reform the federal income tax, a revenue generation policy.

Now some background on the Chevy Volt tax credit.
Background
1. Electric car tax credit
From the official files of the IRS in 2011,
The IRS, May 24th, 2011, “Plug-In Electric Vehicle Credit (IRC 30 and IRC 30D)”, http://www.irs.gov/businesses/article/0,,id=214841,00.html
Internal Revenue Code Section 30D provides a credit for Qualified Plug-in Electric Drive Motor Vehicles (or PEVs) including passenger vehicles and light trucks.  Some low speed vehicles may qualify for the credit if acquired prior to January 1, 2010.
For vehicles acquired after December 31, 2009, the credit is equal to $2,500 plus, for a vehicle which draws propulsion energy from a battery with at least 5 kilowatt hours of capacity, $417, plus an additional $417 for each kilowatt hour of battery capacity in excess of 5 kilowatt hours.  The total amount of the credit allowed for a vehicle is limited to $7,500.
So if you buy an electric car or a plug-in hybrid, you can qualify for an up-to $7500 credit towards your federal tax liability in the year of purchase.

2. Electric isn’t green
The belief that electric cars are better for the Earth is a total myth.  Most electric power for U.S. PEVs is generated by burning coal, which is especially hazardous to the environment, as the esteemed magazine Scientific American explains,
Scientific American (Scientific American, founded in 1845, is the oldest continuously published magazine in the United States.  With 3.5 million worldwide consumers and, on average, 3.88 million unique visitors a month to its website, it is the leading source and authority for science, technology information and policy for a general audience.  144 Nobel Prize Scientists have contributed 234 articles to Scientific American.  Scientific American has received many awards, including the 2011 National Magazine Award for General Excellence.), May 4th, 2010, "The Coal Truth: Will the Coming Generation of Electric Cars Just Be Coal-Burners, Once Removed?", http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=earth-talk-the-coal-truth
It’s true that the advent of electric cars is not necessarily a boon for the environment if it means simply trading our reliance on one fossil fuel—oil, from which gasoline is distilledfor an even dirtier one: coal, which is burned to create electricity.
The mining of coal is an ugly and environmentally destructive process.  And, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) burning the substance in power plants sends some 48 tons of mercury—a known neurotoxin—into Americans’ air and water every year (1999 figures, the latest year for which data are available).  Furthermore, coal burning contributes some 40 percent of total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.  The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) estimates that coal mining and burning cause a whopping $62 billion worth of environmental damage every year in the U.S. alone, not to mention its profound impact on our health.
Upwards of half of all the electricity in the U.S. is derived from coal, while the figure is estimated to be around 70 percent in China.
On top of this trend, dozens of electric and plug-in hybrid cars are in the works from the world’s carmakers.  It stands to reason that, unless we start to source significant amounts of electricity from renewables (solar, wind, etc.), coal-fired plants will not only continue but may actually increase their discharges of mercury, carbon dioxide and other toxins due to greater numbers of electric cars on the road.

As the evidence shows, millions of taxpayer dollars are being wasted on a “green” subsidy for products which aren’t really eco-friendly.  Once you account for the factory emissions from burning coal as well as the pollution from battery production, PEVs cannot honestly be called green.


With the aim of reforming our nation, we now present our plan.
Plan
Through an act of Congress, the IRS will immediately enforce H.R. 3768 as introduced last December.  This bill amends the Internal Revenue Code to repeal the credit for plug-in electric drive vehicles.
Mandate: To pass H.R. 3768 as introduced in the House of Representatives last December.  This one-page bill amends the Internal Revenue Code to repeal the credit for plug-in electric drive vehicles.
Agency: The President, Congress, and any other necessary bodies
Enforcement: The IRS
Timeline: Immediately upon an affirmative ballot.
Advocacy: Representative Mike Kelly, who ironically used to be a Chevrolet salesman, wrote and introduced our plan, which is also being sponsored by 5 other Congressmen.

The world will be significantly improved post the removal of this tax credit.  I’d like to focus on two advantages.

Advantages
Adv. 1 – Competition and free market
A ) Harm – Free market violated
In a free market system, products and technologies are put head to head and the consumer decides which one succeeds.  An economy driven by this force is desirable because it allows for the most liberty and competition, but tax credits stand in the way of a true free market.  Mark Perry, an economics professor, elaborates,
The Detroit News (The News, which has won three Pulitzer Prizes, is published Monday-Saturday, and has an editorial page in the Sunday Free Press.  Editorially, The News is considered to be somewhat more conservative than the Free Press. However, it considers itself to be libertarian. In an editorial statement printed in 1958, The News described itself as consistently conservative on economic issues and consistently liberal on civil liberties issues.), Mark J. Perry (Mark J. Perry is a professor of economics at the Flint campus of the University of Michigan and scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.), January 19th, 2012, "Unplug electric car subsidies", http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20120119/OPINION01/201190339
The case for subsidizing electric cars was questionable from the start and is now a boondoggle.  Like many green initiatives promoted by the government and paid for by the American taxpayers, the electric car is more politically than performance or economically driven.  Its subsidies and the government-imposed green energy mandates are contrary to the free market principles that undergird our economy.  What emerges most forcefully from experience with the electric car is that subsidies are a waste of taxpayer money.  Although the government has provided plenty of help for electric vehicles, there remain major barriers in technology, cost and performance.  When a new technology is economically viable, then government support is not needed.  But if a technology isn't capable of surviving on its own, there's no amount of taxpayer support that will make it so.  It's time to pull the plug on politically motivated taxpayer subsidies for electric cars and see if they can survive on their own in the marketplace.
B ) Solvency – Remove the credit
Through passing the affirmative plan, you remove this tax credit, reducing the government’s presence in the automobile industry.
C ) Impacts – Competition
Without natural competition in the private sector, no business can survive.  Unless a company can create a superior product, no one will purchase from or invest in it.  It’s essential that competition alone drives the business world, for whenever the government intervenes in the market, the quality of the item sold matters less than whatever subsidy one can acquire.  This can have significant consequences including the suppression of innovation and ingenuity.

Adv. 2 – Fairness and individual responsibility
A ) 1. Upper class car
Representative Mike Kelly explains how electric vehicles are restricted for the most part to the upper class of Americans.
Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) ( HYPERLINK "http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/Mike+Kelly" \o "More news, photos about Mike Kelly" Mike Kelly, a Republican, represents the Third District of Pennsylvania in the U.S. Congress.  He is also a former car dealer.), USA Today, December 1st, 2011 ,“Pull plug on electric vehicle subsidies”, http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/story/2011-12-01/chevy-volt-green-taxpayers/51545634/1
Tens of millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on tax breaks for people who've bought an electric car, which comes with a $7,500 federal tax credit, along with additional state tax credits.
Despite the fact that the federal government has no business subsidizing a product that a manufacturer could just as easily promote through rebates and other buyer incentives, the (electric car) tax subsidies are largely going to the affluent few who can actually afford to buy an electric car, which costs anywhere between $40,000 (Chevy Volt) to $97,000 (Fisker's Karma).
In fact, the average income of Chevy Volt buyers is $175,000 a year, a large percentage of whom are disproportionately concentrated throughout Southern California.
Since the average income of a Chevy Volt buyer is $170,000, the driver can absolutely afford to pay the full price of his fancy, electric car, without a large credit towards his taxes.
2. Welfare for the wealthy
All government welfare is undesirable, but the worst kind is that which goes to the rich.  The upper class is already self-sustaining, so any federal dollar spent to support these citizens is wasted money and hardly wise when facing record-high debt.
B ) Remove the credit
C ) 1. Fairness
Fair taxation, by definition, is treating all individuals alike without special treatment.  Currently, the government is asking lower-income Americans to pay for the extravagant driving style of the upper class.  Wealthy PEV drivers get tax credits, but average Americans pay massive gas taxes whenever they visit the pump.  The very concept of this system is outrageous.  Repealing the Volt credit will reform the economy into one of equal treatment for drivers of all engines and all stripes.
2. Individual Responsibility
America is founded upon independence, from the government and from other individuals.  Individual responsibility is at the core of independence, for a person who relies on someone else for his desires cannot truthfully be called independent.  The Volt tax credit, far from encouraging independence, promotes shared responsibility, a concept fundamental to communism.  Instead of being responsible for the purchase of his own electric toy, the buyer passes the burden on, ultimately to another taxpayer.  This is absurd and unjust.  Repealing this credit will defend individual responsibility and return the burden to the proper man, the purchaser of the vehicle.

This is the crux of our case.  If one wants to buy a shiny, electric car, he should do so out of his own wallet.  To quote a columnist for the American spectator, “The prudent fellow who buys a $15k (and 41 MPG) Ford Fiesta pays full freight but the "green" poseur who buys the electric car that goes maybe 60 or 70 miles before it conks out gets a $2,500-$7,500 handout at the expense of people like the prudent fellow who bought the $15k Fiesta on his own nickel.
Welcome to the funny farm.”



And I suppose I should share my openers, because they're downright hilarious.

The Dicaprio Rule
The Detroit News, Henry Payne (Editor of The Michigan View.com and an award-winning editorial cartoonist for The Detroit News.  A twenty-five year newspaper veteran, the Pulitzer Prize-nominated satirist produces 12 cartoons a week for The News and United Feature Syndicate.)
 When President Obama isn't steering taxpayer dollars to corporate cronies for their green energy projects, he's comforting the well-to-do with tax breaks to buy electric cars.  You've heard of the Buffet Rule?  Call this one The DiCaprio Rule after Hollywood millionaire actor Leo DiCaprio who bought a $102,000 2012 electric Fisker Karma luxury sports car - complete with $7500 tax credit.  Now Obama wants to up the subsidy.
Green cars are great, unless X, Y, or Z
The American Spectator, Eric Peters
Electric cars make sense at amusement parks and golf courses -- and on the road, if the road is mostly flat, it's nice and warm out (but not too warm) you've got money to waste, don't have to go very far (especially in winter) and don't mind waiting a couple hours before you can go someplace else.
Otherwise, they're marvelous.

Exploding Obamamobiles
American Tradition Partnership (American Tradition Partnership (ATP) is a no-compromise grassroots organization dedicated to fighting the radical environmentalist agenda.  We support responsible development of natural resources and rational land use and management policies.  Only together can we protect access, private property rights, and affordable energy for all Americans!)
“General Motors will buy Chevrolet Volts back from any owner who is afraid the electric cars will catch fire, the company’s CEO said Thursday,” the Associated Press reports.
“Three fires have broken out in Volts after side-impact crash tests done by the federal government.  Akerson said that if necessary, GM will recall the more than 6,000 Volts now on the road in the U.S. and repair them once the company and federal safety regulators figure out what caused the fires,” the AP reports.
Thankfully there aren’t many of the Obama-mandated death traps to recall.

More equal
All drivers are equal, but some drivers are more equal than others.  George Orwell passed away more than 60 years ago, but were he alive today, he would probably say that America is fast becoming a society like that in his parable, Animal Farm, where the government claims to treat everyone equally but actually caters to an elite class of environmentalists, movie stars, and pigs.

A bird in the hand…
There is an old maxim which says “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”.  The point of this expression is that it’s better to keep one prize than throw it away to chase another which you have no certainty of obtaining.  Gas vehicles are a bird in the hand: they have worked for a hundred years and will work for hundreds more.  Electric cars are two birds in a bush; their technology has not stood the test of time, and they pose many more technical risks than their gas-fueled cousins.  People should be free to choose the bird in the hand or the birds in the bush without government intervention.

If you want to see the rest (and I recommend you do, not only to hear my scathing satire and logic, but also to see how a great case is constructed), leave a comment with your name, club affiliation (if you have any), and email and I'll send you the Word document of the backup brief.  I'll delete your message afterwards for your privacy.

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