Trump’s upset victory in the 2016 presidential election will substantially change the the salience of different topics under debate and discussion for at least the next four years. Trump will not only forward a different set of policies than Obama, but he also has a Republican Congress that is more likely to back at least many parts of his agenda than a Republican Congress was to support Obama’s agenda.
On this page we will cover many of the issues that are likely to come up in your debates, including your Politics debates, Congressional Debates, and Extemp speeches. As a debater or a speaker, you need to be prepared to discuss any of these issues.
There are two meta issues related to the election that are important.
The ALT-Right, Breitbart, Richard Spencer, Steve Bannon, and racism. What role did racism play in the election and what role will arguable racists and racism play in the Trump administration. What does this mean for your research and the assumptions of your arguments? It is important to understand the background of these ideas, entities, and individuals and you can do so by reading our Debater’s Guide to the ALT-Right, Breitbart, Spence, Bannon, racism, and the future of the Trump administration.
The Electoral College. Trump won the electoral college, which is how the election is determined, but Hillary won the popular vote by 2 million votes. This has led to a discussion about whether or not the popular vote should replace the electoral college system. Since this is frequently a subject of debate in Congressional Debate and it may come up in Extemp, we have updated our evidence file, added an extensive bibliography, and produced two essays that identify the main arguments on each side of the debate. You can access all of these resources at this link.
School vouchers. Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos to the position of Secretary of Education means a renewed debate about school vouchers and the privatization of public education. To help you prepare to speak and debate on this topic, we have produced a new bibliography and linked our previous school vouchers file. You can access the material at this link.
General Immigration. The immigration debate will heat up again and will likely include debates on many specific subsets of the general issues, including increased deportation of criminal undocumented immigrants, stricter border enforcement (a wall?), the role of high skilled immigrants, the DACA program and protection of undocumented immigrant students, sanctuary cities and deportation of non-criminal undocumented immigrants.
The US immigration debate (2015)
Immigration and the economy. For now, we have updated our bibliography and general file related to the impact of immigration, both legal and illegal, on the economy. You can access the bibliography and file here.
Should refugees from Syria be at least temporarily banned from the US? The sustained civil war in Syria has resulted in a massive exodus of refugees from the country and the region, resulting in the overflow of refugee camps in Lebanon and Turkey and a massive push into Syria. Earlier this year, President Obama made a controversial decision to substantially increase the number of refugees the US accepts from Syria. Republicans have always been critical of this approach, arguing that the refugees present serious security threats to the US. Trump originally campaigned on a pledge to bar all Muslims from entering the US, which is absurd, but he has now focused his messaging on banning individuals from certain countries from reaching the US. He may very well start by banning arrivals from Syria, which would completely arrest the refugee flow.
Over the last year, Millennial Speech & Debate has made many resources on the general question of accepting refugees from the Middle East available. The resources, including an updated bibliography, are available here.
Should students in the DACA program be protected from deportation? Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA “is an American immigration policy ordered by President Obama as an executive action that allows certain undocumented immigrants to the United States who entered the country before their 16th birthday and before June 2007 to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation” (Wikipedia). Many of these students are currently enrolled at universities throughout the United States.
Since the program was created by Executive Order, it is something that President Trump could easily reverse. Most significantly, as eligibility for the program required that participants disclose location information (addresses) about themselves and family members. The federal government, and soon President Trump, has access to this information and it could be used to find families and students to support deportation. With nearly 750,000 young people currently enrolled in this program, it is a significant issue, not only for students and their families who may be subject to deportation but also to the universities these students attend.
Should Trump retain this executive order? Should Congress protect it in legislation? How should universities respond it Trump repeals it?
Graham preparing legislation to protect Dreamers. More on that legislation :
At least two other Gang of Eight alumni, Dick Durbin and Jeff Flake, are interested in the bill because of course they are. One wrinkle to all of this that might help Graham twist some arms in Congress is the fact that Obama’s administration has amassed a giant database of information on DREAMers via DACA’s registration process. In order to qualify for legal status under the program, illegals had to provide their name, address, fingerprints, and other personal information, supposedly in the assurance that that data wouldn’t be used against them later. Now, suddenly, custody of that database will fall to Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions. If they want to round up and deport the nearly 750,000 young illegals who enrolled in the program, they’ll know just where to find them. (New York City has its own database of illegals who have registered with the city for ID cards. The mayor’s office is considering deleting it lest Trump’s administration gain access to it.) Graham will make the case to fencesitters in Congress that it’d be unfair to let the federal government use that information to remove DREAMers after it was obtained in the first place with a promise of legalization. The only solution: Legalize ’em for real, via statute.
Except … how on earth do you get Donald Trump to go along? True, DREAMers are the most sympathetic class of illegals since many were brought to the U.S. involuntarily as small children, but Trump’s not going to kickstart his populist presidency by signing a blanket amnesty for a group of illegal immigrants, especially on terms that were set by Barack Obama. Presumably Graham is writing this bill in the expectation that it’ll end up as a piece of a larger deal that involves new border security measures too. If, say, Senate Democrats agree to appropriate new money for “the wall,” maybe Trump will see some value in a limited amnesty measure that most of the public is likely to support. (If you believe this story, Trump has been sold on the idea of letting DREAMers stay in the U.S. at least once before.) Besides, Trump’s base is more open to the idea of legalizing illegals than they’re often assumed to be. (Hot Air)
Should the sanctuary cities resist enforcement of federal immigration law? Entering the US illegally is a violation of federal law. The federal government, however, does not have a large enough immigration enforcement division to enforce the law and therefore relies on state and local law enforcement to enforce immigration law. Under the principle of anti-commandeering protected by the US Supreme Court (U.S. v Printz), the federal government cannot require state and local law enforcement to enforce federal law. As a result, many cities have become “sanctuary cities,” refusing to participate in the deportation of non-criminal undocumented immigrants.
President Trump has campaigned to expand deportation and many US cities have pledged to remain sanctuary cities, refusing to assist Trump’s deportation efforts. Although the federal government cannot directly commandeer state and local law enforcement, they can threaten to remove federal funds from cities if the cities don’t participate in the program. Both Trump and his chief of staff, Richard Priebus, have threatened this.
Should cities continue to function as sanctuary cities in opposition to Trump’s deportation plans? Should they take the economic hit if the federal government cuts-off aid?
Should there be sanctuary campuses?
Should the US limit the number of high-skilled workers to protect American jobs? The US admits a limited number of high-skilled workers under H1-B visas in order to offset what many companies argue is a lack of well-educated US workers in order to help businesses in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. Some argue these visas should be expanded but others argue there are an adequate number of appropriately-educated US citizens to take these jobs.
Should the US expand or limit these visas? This debate is covered in the immigration bibliography with supporting evidence in the file.
Should the US increase deportation of criminal undocumented immigrants? Some undocumented immigrants have committed significant crimes, including felonies. These deportations increased under Obama, but it is possible that Trump could expand them. Fivethirtyeight.com claims there are not that many criminal immigrants to deport, but if Trump expands the number of “criminal” immigrants to those who have committed misdemeanors, those who have merely been arrested, and those who are “in a gang” there would be more “criminal” immigrants to deport.
Should the deportation of criminal immigrants be expanded? Should the definition of what constitutes criminal activity be expanded?
Should the US increase deportation of all undocumented immigrants? There are probably close to 12 million undocumented immigrants in the US, including around 2 million who may have engaged in some type of criminal activity while they were in the US. Should the US deport all of them?
During his campaign, Trump promised to deport all undocumented immigrants, but there is less support for that among mainstream Republicans and doing so would require cooperation from state and local police (forced or otherwise) as well as the creation of a massive deportation force. It would require aggressive efforts to determine who was here illegally, which would likely result in the violation of the constitutional rights of American citizens in the process, as well as substantial economic disruptions, as millions of undocumented workers are currently employed and the economy is nearly at full employment. Given this, it seems unlikely that Trump would undertake such an initiative (and get Congressional backing for it), but it is also the case that many of those who voted for him would push him in that direction.
Should the US build a wall on the Southern border? With a lack of public support and the apparent dissapearance from Trump’s discourse, it appears the US will not be building a wall on the southern border? If it becomes an issue again, we will add resources on it.
Other Domestic legislation
Should the US substantially increase its spending on infrastructure? The central theme of Trump’s campaign was that he would “Make America Great Again” by improving the economic conditions of those who are struggling financially. Since trade or immigration is not really a significant source of economic dislocation, Trump will need to find at least some additional ways of creating jobs. Throughout his campaign, Trump has made case that American infrastructure needs to be improved, which is true. Steven Bannon, his controversial Chief Advisor, is currently working on a $1 trillion+ infrastructure program. And his choice of Elaine Chao as Transportation Secretary makes it likely he will pursue this:
Trump’s choice of Chao to be transportation secretary and Rep. Price (R-Ga.) as Health and Human Services chief on Tuesday continued a pattern of appealing to the Republican lawmakers who will carry out his legislative agenda next year. Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), will likely be a critical liaison between Trump and Capitol Hill when work begins on his infrastructure package, and the conservative Price is a steadfast Obamacare critic viewed by Republicans as an able technocrat. (Politico)
While the devil is in the details, there are two good sides to the debate and it will likely be debated throughout the spring, both in Extemp and as a Politics disadvantage. To get started, we have a bibliography available.
Should the US lower federal income taxes, including corporate income taxes? The tax reform debate is a complicated one, especially since no specific tax reform proposal has been released by Trump, but we can generally expect a tax reform package that will significantly lower taxes for businesses and include some reduction in taxes for the middle class. Poor individuals often pay little to no tax, and some even argue that taxes will increase for the middle class and the poor under Trump’s plan.
There are a couple of basic arguments in favor of tax cuts — that wealthy individuals should not have to pay a disproportionate share of taxes and that lowering taxes will free up money for businesses to invest in the economy, creating economic growth and helping the poor over the long term. This theory of growth is of course controversial, with some arguing that the state of Kansas proves that tax cuts do not generate enough growth to offset the loss of tax revenues from higher rates, triggering substantial cutbacks in the public sector (schools, health care, welfare, etc).
As you prepare to debate tax reform, there are a number of things that you need to consider —
Will tax cuts stimulate economic growth?
Will the economic stimulus created by tax cuts in turn generate enough government revenue through taxation of future earnings generated by the loss of revenue for higher rates?
Will will the tax cuts be paid for — what programs will be cut?
Who will be the winners and losers from such tax cuts?
Should the Affordable Care Act be repealed (and replaced)? The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (or Obamacare) was passed by Congress and signed into law on March 23, 2010 (DHHS). [Full explanation of history @ Wikipedia]
The politics of the passage were tricky. It was passed when the Democrats controlled the House and the Senate in addition to the presidency, but it passed the Senate by a very narrow margin. There are currently more than 20 million people who have purchased health insurance through state and federal insurance exchanges as part of Obama care.
There are a few components of the law that are controversial and make it unique.
Everyone in the US must have health care. If you are an adult you must have health care through your employer, purchase your own health insurance from a health care company or purchase it through one of the Obamacare exchanges. If you do not have health care then you must pay a tax penalty at the end of the year. The tax penalty is not nearly as great as the cost of health care, but it is designed to encourage people to purchase health insurance.
There are subsidies for people who cannot afford health care. If you cannot afford health care, you are eligible for a federal subsidy to support your health care payments.
Health care providers cannot turn people with preexisting conditions away. If you have cancer, a health insurance company cannot either deny you coverage or charge you an outrageous fee. Prior to the ACA, they could do this.
Students can stay on their parents health insurance until they are 26. This substantially expanded the time students could stay on their parents health care coverage, essentially enabling them to keep health care coverage until they are out of graduate school.
The last two provisions of the law are very popular, and they are two provisions that Trump said he will likely keep when he met with Obama shortly after the election.
On the campaign trail, Trump promised an immediate repeal of Obamacare and Republicans have long fought for repeal as well. Of course, repealing a program that benefits 20 million Americans, rising costs in tow, is not simple, so Trump and Republicans have been pushing for repeal and replace.
But let’s discuss ‘repeal and replace.” Repeal isn’t so easy because even if EVERY Republican wanted to repeal, they’d still need 8 Democrats to get to 60 in the Senate for a complete repeal. That isn’t going to happen. But, the Republicans could certainly repeal all financial support for Obamacare (see budget reconciliation discussion below), something some want to do even before Trump is sworn in as President, though they would likely leave the law in place for 12-18 months so people don’t lose insurance.
Regardless of whether or not it is first simply repealed or repealed with a replacement, it certainly will be “replaced” or “reformed.” It would have been even if Hillary was elected. Why? Because the cost increases were unsustainable and insurers were leaving the exchanges. So, in reality, both Hillary and Trump needed to confront the reality of reform/replace, whatever you want to call it.
How do you reform it? Well,it’s not so simple. Earlier this year, the Republicans attempted a “reform” through the Budget Reconciliation process (5 key points about budget reconciliation) that they were able to pass because changes through the Budget Reconciliation process and those only require 50 votes. The problems is that changes in that process are limited to financial changes (“budget” changes). So, what did they do? Well, they eliminated the tax on upper income earners that was designed to support the program IN TWO YEARS, giving them time to replace it. Of course, Obama vetoed it, and Republicans knew he would do that so you can’t even argue it was a real attempt to kill the financial support for the ACA. And, well, even it was Obama care would still be in place, but premiums would be EVEN HIGHER because the source of the subsidy for the poor would be removed.
What does Trump want to do?
Well, we really don’t know, but he’s been arguing for “repeal and replace.” Nothing more. What will he replace it with?
A replacement will be difficult to produce if Trump wants to keep the mandate that insurance companies sell affordable insurance regardless of existing conditions and he wants to keep the provision that students can stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26. Why? Because those provisions are very expensive for insurance companies. They aren’t practically going to be able to afford them if there are substantially fewer government subsidies and if everyone doesn’t have to buy health insurance.
And, today (11/29), Trump announced that he will nominate Tom Price for Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). An ardent critic of Obamacare, Price is likely to lead its dismantling, perhaps even through the reconciliation process (as much as possible)
Also, Trump’s decision to have Seema Verma — Pence’s own Medicaid Policy consultant — head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services provide some additional insight into how Obamacare may be “reformed.”
When Pence was Governor, how, with the assistance of Verma, successfully lobbied the Obama administration to allow Indiana to provide health care coverage for the poor through a “Health Indiana Plan” that “includes health savings accounts and requires participants to contribute small amounts to cover their own care” (CNN). This market-based style approach is what is likely under any “replacement.”
One political problem that confronts replacement is that 60 votes will be needed for replacement — passage of a new bill. Democrats will likely balk at replacement, but if Republicans repeal most of the provisions through reconciliation (which they may be especially tempted to do if the Democrats won’t agree to their replacement), the Democrats’ hands will be somewhat forced, as the alternative will be to leave the 20 million people enrolled in Obamacare with potentially no health care at all.
Should Congress pass legislation that restricts outsourcing? President-elect Trump spent some time on Thanksgiving weekend tweeting about how he was going to stop a plant from leaving Indiana to go to Mexico, protecting 1,000 jobs in the USA. It is unclear how he was going to accomplish this, but presidential candidate Bernie Sanders plans on submitting legislation to hold Trump to his promises that aims to reduce outsourcing “by withholding federal contracts, tax breaks, loans or grants from corporations that move more than 50 jobs overseas” (The Hill). Of course, in addition to keeping the companies here, the US would need to prevent companies from slashing wages and benefits.
Should Medicare by privatized? Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has long pushed efforts to privatize Medicare, something likely to be highly controversial. With Republican majorities and a Republican president, can he do it? Is it desirable? This is probably not likely to be something that is near the top of the agenda, but it certainly will be part of our political discourse.
Should Medicaid be block-granted? Medicaid is the insurance program for the poor. Paul Ryan would like to block grant these funds to the states to distribute as they choose.
What can the government do to improve the economic conditions in rural America? A critical ingredient of the Republican’s success in the election was the fact that the economic gap between rural areas and the cities, particularly those on the costs has radically expanded. What can be done to address this gap? Trump recently claimed that in the last 20 years that 70,000 factories left the United States. What can be done about this? Outsourcing legislation? Reversal of free trad deals? Perhaps, but these won’t stop automation (see below) and will have their own negative economic impacts. But, what are we as a national going to do to prevent rural poverty?
Should the US abandon the Iran deal? In the spring of 2015, the US reached an agreement with Iran and other major global powers, including China, Russia, and many European nations, to reduce economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for its commitment to abandon nuclear weapons development for a certain number of years and to bring its nuclear facilities under expanded international monitoring. Republicans have long opposed this deal, an executive agreement, and Trump campaigned on a promise to withdraw from the deal (and, of course, negotiate a new one, a better one). Since this is a deal among many countries and since the alternative may be war, it will not be easy for President Trump to back out of this deal. Nonetheless, it will likely enjoy significant debate, perhaps with Republicans pushing legislation either to add new sanctions or restore old sanctions.
Should the US restore (or end) full economic and diplomatic ties with Cuba? The US has had a long standing economic embargo on Cuba that was placed after Castro’s Communist revolution. Although there has never been enough support for lifting the embargo, the Obama administration took action to reverse a number of restrictions that had been issues by the executive branch. Although there was not sizable resistance to these actions, Republicans have generally been opposed to at least further normalization.
The death of Raul Castro on Saturday, November 27th, once again brought US Cuba policy to the forefront of US policy discussions and Trump’s Chief of Staff, Richard Priebus, has stated that Trump may reverse the opening.
Cuba Embargo Bad -- Subscribers Only (1.6 MiB)
Cuba Embargo Good -- Subscribers Only (317.5 KiB)
Should the US align with Putin and Assad to defeat ISIS in Syria? The Syrian civil war has been waging for years, with no end in sight. More than 200,000 people have died, hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled, and cease-fire agreements have collapsed because the US and Russia find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict — Russia backs Syrian president Assad who is protecting his power in Syria by engaging in massive bombing campaigns, including using chemical weapons on his own people. Understandably, the US doesn’t want to risk war with Russia over the conflict.
One complicating element is that there are many groups fighting in Syria, individuals from what the US claims are “moderate” groups to ISIS. Trump and his backing Assad and Putin because they think ISIS is a greater threat and want to engage in (or at least support) a massive bombing campaign in Syria to drive ISIS out of Syria into Iraq, where they will bomb them even more. This will obviously have tremendous humanitarian consequences and support two dictators (Putin and Assad), but it has the potential to defeat ISIS.
Should the US back Putin and Assad?
Are there other solutions?
How will US relations with Russian improve? Is this improvement desirable? Trump campaigned on improving relations with Russia. Is such an improvement desirable? What are the benefits and costs? How will it be accomplished?
Putin’s revenge. This Politico Magazine article explains the history of US-Russian relations since Bill Clinton was elected in 1994. It contextualizes the hacking in terms of Putin’s opposition to the Clintons.
Should the US pressure European NATO countries to increase their military spending? Is Russia a threat to NATO? On the campaign trail, Trump pushed back against the relevance of US military commitments to the defense of Europe, something that is actualized through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Trump argued that these were potentially unnecessary and that European allies should at least pay more of the costs of the security.
What does this mean for NATO? Will Trump “ghost” NATO?
Will security commitments no longer be seen as credible?
Should the US pressure allies to pay more of the costs?
Should the US label China a currency manipulator? One of the argued causes of the US-China trade imbalance is efforts by China to manipulate the value of its currency, changing the relative value of imports and exports. In order to put pressure on China’s practices, on the campaign trail Trump threatened to label China a “currency manipulator.” China pushed back, arguing that if the US did this it would cancel orders for Boeing aircraft, stop exporting iphones, and prevent the impacts of other products.
Should the US prevent China’s State owned Enterprises (SOE) from purchasing US companies? There have been some recent proposals to prevent Chinese companies owned by the government from investing in and purchasing US companies. Should these move forward?
Is US isolationism a threat to global peace? Trump’s campaign focused around a general theme of “America First” – that the US should prioritize getting its own economic house in order before worrying about the rest of the world. A draw-down in overseas military commitments (both in terms of direct commitments and indirect financial support) could be seen as components of this move toward a isolationist foreign policy, but is this good for America? Is it good for the world? The US, as the leading global economic power has always been the “world’s policeman.” What will happen if we draw back?
Hegemony Good -- Subscribers Only (388.9 KiB)
Hegemony Good -- Asia -- Subscribers Only (203.4 KiB)
Hegemony Update -- September -- Subscribers Only (300.4 KiB)
AT Hegemony Solves War -- Subscribers Only (167.7 KiB)
Hegemony Advantage Answers -- Subscribers Only (247.9 KiB)
Can Trump succeed in negotiating a deal to reduce the North Korean threat? The threat from a nuclear North Korea never seems to fade. Can Trump successfully negotiate with the country?
How should the Trump administration manage Turkey? In response to an attempted coup in July, President Erdogan has taken a very hard line against opposition forces in the country. Erdogan has voiced support for Trump, identifying him as a hard liner as well. How should the US manage its relationship with Turkey, an important US NATO ally in the region?
Is Trump presidency a threat to Mexico’s economy? Threats to build a wall, expel undocumented workers, limit the flow of remittances, and restrict trade, he left Mexico to perceive Trump as a significant threat to its economy. Is this a reasonable fear? What are the consequences? Should the US be concerned about Mexico’s economy? How should President Trump manage the US relationship with Mexico?
Should Trump (RE)-Pivot to Asia? During the campaign Trump seemed to signal a willingness to abandon US allies in Japan and South Korea. Immediately after winning the election he promised to withdraw from the Transpacific Partnership (TPP). Does Trump need to change his approach?
Should funding for the Ex-Im bank be rescinded? The Ex-Im bank provides financing for US companies who want to export goods abroad. While this will probably not be a hot topic this spring, some are concerned that free market Republicans, including Trump in this case, will abandon support for the bank.
Should Ex-Im bank funding be rescinded?
Export Import Bank DA -- Subscribers Only (203.8 KiB)
[Note: the “DA” file contains the evidence that says it is good]
Should the use of torture, including waterboarding, in the war on terrorism be expanded?
Donald Trump has been advocating expanding the use of torture in the war on terrorism.
This file contains some arguments as to why employing torture is likely to actually undermine the war on terrorism.
Torture Bad -- Subscribers Only (103.0 KiB)
Is the terrorism threat increasing? Is the terrorism threat significant?
A -- WMD Terrorism -- Subscribers Only (32.9 KiB)
Terrorism Answers -- Subscribers Only (1.2 MiB)
How will Trump fight terrorism, particularly ISIS? Will Trump’s approach succeed or worse the problem?
Is ISIS a significant threat?
Does free trade, including NAFTA, threaten US jobs? An easy case could be made that the discussion of trade should be moved-up much higher in the essay. After all, the basic claim that free trade, particularly the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is responsible for the outsourcing of American jobs was a the most common argument of Trump’s campaign. As soon as Trump was elected, he promised to reverse the United States’ decision to join the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) and not seek ratification by the Congress.
As someone who has researched trade for more than two decades, I’m sort of surprised by the massive opposition to free trade. Yes, the opportunity to produce goods overseas and import them has the potential to depress wages and threaten jobs, but it also opens up export markets for US companies who make a lot of money selling goods abroad. And, of course, cheaper goods lowers prices for consumers (why do you think it is so economical to shop at Wal-Mart)? Restricting trade threatens US exports, will likely raise the price of consumer goods, and will likely increase the geopolitical influence of other countries that are willing to trade. For example, absent the TPP China countries are more likely to join a regional trade agreement supported by China. If the US reduces its trade with Latin America, China may fill in there as well. Free trade also arguably reduces the risk of war by creating economic interdependence between countries.
I wrote the last paragraph not to necessarily convince you that all trade is good or that maybe we can’t get a better deal, but to point out that questions of free trade are complex and are worth of significant debate.
I -- Free Trade -- Subscribers Only (27.8 KiB)
A -- Trade Solves War -- Subscribers Only (25.4 KiB)
AT Trade -- Free Trade Bad -- Subscribers Only (338.5 KiB)
Toxic Waste -- Subscribers Only (62.4 KiB)
Should the US withdraw from the Paris climate accord? “he Paris Agreement is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gases emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020. The language of the agreement was negotiated by representatives of 195 countries at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Paris and adopted by consensus on 12 December 2015. It was opened for signature on 22 April 2016 (Earth Day) at a ceremony in New York. As of November 2016, 193 UNFCCC members have signed the treaty, 115 of which have ratified it. After several European Union states ratified the agreement in October 2016, there were enough countries that had ratified the agreement that produce enough of the world’s greenhouse gases for the agreement to enter into force. The agreement went into effect on 4 November 2016.” (Wikipedia).
President Trump campaigned on a commitment for the US to withdraw from the Paris accord but unless the US also withdrew from the UNFCC treaty the US wouldn’t be able to withdraw from the Paris Agreement for Four years.
During a campaign speech in North Dakota in May, Trump told a cheering crowd, “We’re going to cancel the Paris climate agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.” The agreement, however, was negotiated and ratified by the global community, so Trump cannot simply call it off. (So far, 193 countries have signed the accord, and 113 have ratified it). But Trump still has perhaps the most power here to follow through on his promise, compared with his other pledges.
Pres. Barack Obama unilaterally ratified the Paris accord without the Senate, and Trump could withdraw the U.S. from the agreement nearly as easily by signing an executive order, even on his first day in office. Experts note that it will take the U.S. four years to fully back out of the agreement, due to the way it is structured: Under the Paris accord, any country that wants to leave must wait three years after the agreement takes force (which happened on Nov. 4) —and then there is an additional yearlong notice period. Yet “as a practical matter, the announcement and paperwork would have the effect of removing the U.S., setting it on a certain course for withdrawal,” says Scott Fulton, president of the Environmental Law Institute.
Trump will have another option if he doesn’t want to wait four years: He could pull out of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with an executive order, which would simultaneously withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement. It would take only one year to complete, although it is viewed as a more drastic move. “It would be a very dramatic thing to withdraw from the UNFCCC,” Freeman says, “He could do it, but it would annoy an awful lot of our allies.” Trump, though, has recently appeared to soften his stance on the Paris accord. In a recent interview with the New York Times, he said he had “an open mind” about the agreement.
The Trump administration will also have the choice to simply ignore U.S. emission targets under the Paris agreement—the accord does not include any formal punishment for countries that do not meet their goals. Pulling out of one or any international treaties or ignoring their mandates would likely damage the U.S.’s relationship with the international community. Experts say that if the U.S. withdraws from the Paris accord, there could be diplomatic and economic repercussions—some countries, such as Mexico and Canada, are reportedly considering imposing a carbon tariff on U.S. products. (Scientific American)
And recently, Trump said he is reconsidering withdrawing. US businesses, particularly those in the energy sector, have started lobbying Trump stay in the accord in order to support their efforts to develop new energy technologies and compete internationally with those technologies. If the US withdrew, it would ceded leadership in such technologies to other countries, particularly the Chinese.
Is climate change a hoax? There is a widespread consensus among climate scientists that humans have contributed to an increase in the earth’s average temperature. Donald Trump and some in his administration, however, are skeptical of that connection, with many doubting there is any link at all. He has as selected Myron Ebell of the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Energy and Environment, an outspoken climate skeptic, to lead his EPA transition team (Scientific American).
Recently, Trump has at least stated there may be “some connectivity” between humans and climate change .
Although I thought this debate was long ago settled and not worth re-having, it is possible that you could end up being asked to speak or debate about whether or not humans are responsible for an increase in the earth’s average temperature. To get you started on that debate, we have linked some files below.
Climate Change And Morality -- Subscribers Only (299.5 KiB)
Climate Answers -- Subscribers Only (313.1 KiB)
Climate Update 2 -- Subscribers Only (151.1 KiB)
Climate Impacts -- Subscribers Only (460.8 KiB)
Should the US reduce regulations on energy production? The incoming Trump administration has pledged to significantly reduce regulations on the production of coal, natural gas, oil and shale.
Chopping many of Obama’s key climate change efforts is part of Trump’s plan to encourage fossil fuel production. “I will lift the restrictions on the production of 50 trillion dollars’ worth of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal,”he pledged in his Contract with the American Voter.
To achieve this, the president-elect plans to revoke the Clean Power Plan, open onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands for energy development, end the ban on new federal coal leases and lift various other regulations. He will likely attempt to repeal several EPA or Department of the Interior rules, according to experts—such as the Obama administration’s regulations for offshore drilling, its rules for limiting methane emissions from the oil and gas industry’s operations, and others.
Although the energy industry must follow EPA or Interior rules, the president has sway over how strictly they are enforced—which means Trump could decide to weakly implement some of the Obama regulations. Or if Trump decides to change or revoke the current rules, he would not need Congress’s approval to do so. (Scientific American)
Specifically, should Trump reverse the Clean Power Protection Plan?
Should limits on offshore drilling be repealed?
Should the power of the EPA be reduced?
One major feature of Trump’s plan is to strip down the EPA’s regulatory power. “Department of Environmental Protection [sic]—we’re going to get rid of it in almost every form,” Trump said during a Fox News debate. Besides appointing Ebell, who has called Obama’s Clean Power Plan “illegal,” Trump at times has called for abolishing the agency altogether. But he cannot eliminate the EPA on his own—he needs Congress both to introduce and pass legislation, according to Freeman. And even with Republicans in control of the House and Senate, he likely would not have enough votes. “Eliminating EPA altogether looks to me to be profoundly difficult to do,” Fulton says. Other experts agree that it is highly unlikely that Trump could kill the EPA. “Environmental statutes like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act are really popular, and I don’t think most members in Congress are interested in fully repealing them,” Carlson explains. “And if you don’t repeal them, then you need an agency to implement them.”
Trump does have other ways to curb the EPA’s power. He could slash the agency’s budget by asking for significantly less money from Congress, which would make it harder for the EPA to enforce its rules—although he cannot end its funding altogether. Congress will ultimately decide how much money an agency gets through the standard budgeting process. “Every president has different priorities. Some ask for more for EPA, some ask for less,” Freeman explains, “But Congress does what it wants—the president’s budget is a request.” Trump could also direct the EPA not to issue any new regulations, with the exception of statutes that legally require them (such as the Clean Air Act). He could also ask Congress to curb the EPA’s authority, rather than eliminating the agency altogether. “We could see some pretty draconian efforts to reduce the EPA by limiting its budget and power,” Carlson says. “It depends on where Congress wants to place its energy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see that kind of move.” (Scientific American)
Many of the previously listed topic could fit under the topic of “economy,” but given their own independent significance I decided to put them in their own areas, and some of them will eventually be separated for additional discussion.
Does artificial intelligence and automation threaten the future of the American worker? A central component of Trump’s campaign was increasing the number of jobs for US workers. In fact, Trump even campaigned on erecting barriers to trade that make it more expensive to produce goods abroad and the import them to the US. One fundamental assumption of this argument is that jobs are primarily lost to oversees workers and not to automation, robotics, and (soon enough) artificial intelligence. Are these the predominant trends the real threat to employment? Stephen Hawking wrote on December 1st:
The concerns underlying these votes about the economic consequences of globalisation and accelerating technological change are absolutely understandable. The automation of factories has already decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing, and the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining. This in turn will accelerate the already widening economic inequality around the world. The internet and the platforms that it makes possible allow very small groups of individuals to make enormous profits while employing very few people. This is inevitable, it is progress, but it is also socially destructive. (Guardian)
Should Dodd-Frank be repealed?
Many argue the 2016 election was either exclusively about race or at least that it was framed by race — that the economic anxieties of white voters were essentially transferred to frame of race where minorities were seen as threatening their interests — immigrants taking their jobs, minorities increasing crime, Islamic peoples threatening terror, poor blacks and Hispanics taking their tax money in the form of welfare payments. This was magnified by the role the ALT-RIGHT (some say they should simply be called racists or white nationalists) on websites such as breitbart.com promoting racist conspiracy theories. After the election, there has been an arguable increase in hate crimes through the US. Trump is going to nominate Jeff Sessions, a man who could not get confirmation for a judgeship in the 1980s from a Republican congress because of racist statements he made, to be the Attorney General, likely resulting in a substantial rollback of civil rights protections.
Issues of race are complex, but in this section I will try to focus you on some key questions that you should be prepared to speak and debate about.
Are minorities at risk from growing hate crimes? What can be done?
What role did white identity plan in the election? What is its future?
Is identity politics a productive political strategy? Identity politics refers to the idea that one’s identity as a member of a racial or gender group, is a useful means to organize politics, particularly for the purpose of protecting minority rights.
Will Trump’s policies economically empower blacks? During the campaign, Trump claimed that the policies of the Democrats left blacks in America in the dust. Will his economic policies empower them?
Racism — Economics
Will the Trump administration support a war on (radical) islam?
Are American Muslims at-risk under a Trump administration?
Will the US institute a Muslim registry? Why is this a bad policy option?
Populism Some argue that Trump instigated a wave of racist populism and road it to electoral victory. Is populism here to stay? Is it racist?
Is Donald Trump the modern day Andrew Jackson?
What does the election of Donald Trump mean for progressivism, particularly the protection of individual rights? Can progressives hang on?
A case can be made that the Trump administration is anti-Islamic.
Is Islam a threat to the West?
Are we headed for a clash of civilizations?
Will Trump’s Supreme Court appointments reverse hard-won individual rights?
UN Israel Vote
There are some issues that you may be called to speak or debate about that I think are (unfortunately) somewhat unique to President-elect Trump, or at least to the 2016 election cycle.
Is Trump a liar? One common criticism of Trump is that he is a brazen liar. For example, on the campaign trail he argued that the murder rate is the highest it has been in 45 years, based on FBI statistics, the murder rate is actually the lowest it has been in generations. So, is Donald Trump a liar? What do Trump’s lies mean for the survival of the country? What doe the lies mean for democracy? Is there any way to police the lies?
Is President Trump a threat to American democracy? Many argue that Trump is a threat to democracy because he’s undermined the media, lied to the voters, instigated a dangerous/racist populism, has threatened the credibility of the electoral process by claiming that 3 million people illegally voted (and that he would have won the popular vote had he note voted) and because he claims anti-corruption norms and laws do not apply to the President.
Are Trump’s conflicts of interest a threat to democratic governance? As alluded to in the last topic, Trump arguably has substantial conflicts of interest. Will diplomats stay in his hotels and pay high prices in order to gain favor with the President? Are countries more likely to support his hotel and property deals in order to gain favor? Trump’s wealth and real estate holdings mean he has conflicts like no other President in history.
Today (11/30), Trump said he was stepping out of his business empire to focus on the presidency. While this is good news, we will anxious await the details that he is set to release on December 15th in a press conference with his kids, who he will be transferring the business to.
Does the Trump presidency present a threat to a free media? Trump is seen threatening free media in a number of ways — isolating himself from the media, promoting fake stories, making outrageous claims, and directly attacking the media.
Is Trump’s use of Twitter good for America?
Here’s a question that the press has never had to deal with before: how do you deal with a president-elect, and eventually a president, who regularly Tweets untrue or intimidating statements?
By the nature of the office, when a president says something it’s usually news. Words can move markets, start wars, shift the direction of major domestic and foreign policy. And that’s why most presidents are constrained and careful with their public statements.
Not so Donald Trump. It’s one of the things his supporters love about him and his critics despise. And anyone who thought Trump was going to change after the election, well, as the saying goes, the past seems to be prologue.
But within the press there is a brewing discussion about what these Tweets mean and how to handle them. Because whether Trump is Tweeting about the musical Hamilton, Saturday Night Live, erroneously saying he won the popular vote, changing the Constitution on flag burning (today’s latest), these statements inevitably overwhelm the news cycle. But in the meantime, there are a lot of other important stories that aren’t getting enough attention – like investigations into Trump’s potential conflicts of interest from his business dealings or some of the more extreme positions taken by his cabinet choices.
Some in the press, and comments I have read on this page, have suggested that Trump’s use of Twitter is a master stroke to deflect attention from more potentially damaging stories. Others have suggested that the more the media plays up the Tweets, the more Trump’s base (which thinks the press is biased to begin with) gets riled up and the more Trump’s message dominates the public discussion. I can see the merits of all of these points.
On the other hand, the president of the United States Tweeting out a lie, threatening people and institutions, betraying an obsession with conspiracy theories – that is all news too. And it’s important that the press doesn’t normalize it.
On this page I am going to try to walk a balance between bringing attention to Tweets when I think they are serious enough to merit, but not allow my postings to be too distracted from other important news. It will be a process to figure it out and I would welcome your thoughts and continued engagement as we go through this.
In times of like this I sometimes try to imagine what my journalistic hero Edward R. Murrow would do. in this case, I can imagine him shaking his head and shrugging in disbelief. “Son, I saw a lot in my time, but I never saw anything like this. Good luck, but I fear you’re on your own.”
Is fake news a threat to democracy? To the credibility of media? What should be done about fake news? There are many sites on the internet producing literally fake news. This news is frequently shared on social media and there is reason to believe it has impacted the election and that Trump even shared fake news.
Should flag burning be banned? Today Trump tweeted that flag burning should be banned and anyone caught burning a flag should face a year in prison or loss of citizenship. Since the Supreme Court already upheld flag burning as protected speech, it is unclear why Trump made this statement other than to throw something to his most conservative base of supporters. That said, here are a few links in case you need think you will be called to speak or debate about it.
The Carrier Plant controversy. “President-elect Donald J. Trump and his vice president Mike Pence are claiming a victory in Indiana, where air-conditioning company Carrier and its parent, United Technologies, have announced that they are planning to keep “close to 1,000 jobs” in Indiana. Carrier had planned to move 2,000 jobs from Indiana to Mexico, where workers earn in a day roughly what Indiana workers make in an hour. The terms of the deal are unclear—Trump says he will travel to Indiana Thursday to make an announcement about the plant—but negotiations had centeredaround tax breaks that Carrier could receive for staying, and on changes that Trump has pledged to the overall U.S. tax code that would benefit businesses. United Technologies also has billion-dollar contracts with the federal government; some analysts speculated those contracts would have been at risk had Carrier moved the jobs.” Politico adds: The deal that President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence brokered to keep Carrier jobs in Indiana likely hinges on its parent company’s fear about losing business with the federal government, said an official who will play a critical role in approving the agreement….The agreement reportedly includes $700,000 in state tax breaks offered by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, a quasi-public entity that doesn’t require legislative approval for its deals.
Should Trump and Pence have offered Carrier financial incentives to stay in Indiana?
Will these financial incentives encourage other companies to threaten to leave if they don’t get them?
Will extensive use of financial incentives threaten the tax base needed for essential public services?
Problems with the deal —
Focusing on retaining low-skilled jobs doesn’t solve automation and discourages workers from being trained for new jobs.
Alan Semuels, The Atlantic, November 30, 2016, http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/11/carrier-deal/509201/?utm_source=atlfb
The jobs at the Carrier plant aren’t particularly high-skilled, and it’s possible that they could eventually be automated, like many manufacturing jobs across the country. There are other types of manufacturing jobs that the state might have been smarter to invest in. In Indiana, the big growth industries in manufacturing—those that come without presidential intervention, at least—are in highly-skilled factories that make medical devices and orthopedics, Timothy Slaper, the director of economic analysis at the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University, said. Without market intervention, it’s those industries that would grow naturally, and it’s possible that former Carrier workers could find jobs there. “A lot of the jobs that have vanished are these manufacturing jobs that aren’t as high-skilled,” he said. “If you’re a company like Carrier, when you are paying pretty high wages, it’s easy for those jobs to be moved. It’s a bit more difficult when you’re talking about medical devices.” Indiana might do better to double down on its growth industries and not try to keep jobs that are slowly disappearing anyway.
Matthew Nussbaum, November 30, 2016, Politico, http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/indiana-carrier-deal-federal-contracts-trump-232021
If Trump tries to pursue this strategy more broadly to keep other companies from moving jobs abroad, he could run into trouble with Republicans. Claude Barfield, an expert on international trade at the American Enterprise Institute, said brokering aid packages with individual companies is far from a conservative approach. For market-based economists or analysts, this is really a version of crony capitalism, and it’s the kind of thing you really don’t want to get into or have government get into,” Barfield said. “This gets back to who … actually has the ear of the government. So you get the situation where decisions are not made in terms of their economic sense, but in terms of gaming the political system.”