• Ben Silvian

Affirmative Sample Case: Income Inequality

Updated: Aug 10

We Affirm (738)


Contention One is The Other America


The greatest inequality in this country is between Native Americans who live on reservations and the rest of the population. Rob Capriccioso of Indian County News calculates that average on-reservation incomes are under $8,000, which is less than half the average income of an off-reservation American.


The problem is that, as Harris of the Umatilla Indian Reservation reports, most Native American reservations have poorer infrastructure than a third-world country, and thus no access to job markets and opportunities for economic mobility.


The solution to this form of inequality is to spend more on infrastructure. Keel of the National Congress of American Indians finds that the primary barrier to on-reservation prosperity is a lack of transportation infrastructure.


Contention Two is Disaster Preparedness


Natural Disasters are becoming frighteningly likely. According to Researcher Kelly Hereid, global warming has put the US at extreme risk of hurricanes. In fact, there is a 39 to 41 percent chance of the Gulf or Atlantic coast being hit by a Category 3 hurricane every single year.


This is only a piece of the puzzle. Hill of Market Watch finds that an alarming 43% of US homes are at high risk of some type of natural disaster, be it a hurricane, flood, tornado, or earthquake.


We’re not ready. Stockton of Wired finds that just about every coastal city in the country is completely unprepared for such a disaster.


Investing in infrastructure is the single best way to prevent natural disasters from destroying our cities. FEMA explains that Section 406 funding can not only construct new disaster mitigation infrastructure, but also build resilience into each and every piece of public infrastructure that we build. Weiss of The CAP finds that every one dollar spent on resilience improvements saves the economy four dollars from reduced damages.

In fact, Stoltz of Missouri S&T University writes that if New Orleans’ Levee infrastructure had been better funded, the destructive floods that came as a result of Hurricane Katrina could have been largely prevented.


This is imperative because natural disasters dramatically increase income inequality. Masozera of UVM finds that the impact of Katrina-like disasters is far most devastating for the poor, who lose their houses, their jobs, and all hopes for economic mobility. Further, Kostro of the CSIS finds that following a natural disaster, 30 percent of local small businesses shut down permanently. The impacts are long term; Stockton continues that the economic effects of a natural disaster persist for 20 years.


All in all, Miljkovic of North Dakota State University finds that for every 100 billion dollars in hurricane damages, income inequality increases by 5.4%. For context, Newman of the New York Times reports that Hurricane Sandy, which was just a category 1 hurricane, cost 80 billion dollars. Katrina cost 148 Billion.


Contention Three is Worker Empowerment


Lukas Brun of Duke finds in 2014 that if the federal government were to meet the Department of Transportation’s funding request, it would put 2.47 million Americans to work building and maintaining infrastructure.


Not only are jobs created and people employed, but Florence Jaumotte of the IMF empirically finds that as public-sector employment rises, so too does unionization, as a way for workers to keep a check on their employers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that 35 out of every hundred public sector workers joining the workforce will join a union. Comparatively, only 8 percent of private sector workers join unions. Increased participation in unions is critical for three reasons.


First, increased political power. Jasmin Kerrissey of the University of Massachusetts finds that unions catalyze collective political action, which is crucial to implementing the progressive policies that fight inequality. Kerrissey finds that unionized workers are 93% more likely to participate in protests than are non-unionized workers.


Second, boosting wages. Walters of the EPI finds that unions both raise the wages of unionized workers by 20%, and set a pay standard for employers, increasing nonunion wages by the same amount.


Third, harming the rich. Covert of Think Progress reports that the decline in unionization over the past 30 years accounts for half of the rise of incomes of the rich, as unions keep the rich’s incomes in check.


Overall, Bruno of the University of Illinois finds that unions are the most effective institution at reducing inequality: a 10 percent increase in union membership reduces income inequality by between 4.7 and 14.5 percent.