Zeit Guy Links – 9/25/12

Valencia: A Spanish city without medicine  (BBC)

…The sign on the wall tells the story. “Important information. The government of Valencia owe this pharmacy for all the medicine we have dispensed to you in January, February, March, April and May”.

And not just this pharmacy. The government of Valencia – which runs the health system – owes a grand total of half a billion euros to the region’s pharmacies.

Paula guides me into that back room that exists in all pharmacies, where the prescription drugs are kept. The problem is, now, there are not many drugs left.

“Look, this drawer is usually full,” she says, pointing to where the suppositories are kept. Now there are only two packets.”

She opens the fridge. “Look,” she says, “we are down to our last packs of insulin. We just have no money to buy the stock.”

I ask: “What happens if several people come in on the same day for insulin?” She makes two fingers walk along the back of her wrist. “They have to go around the neighbourhood to see if anybody else has it. It is the same with drugs for heart disease, stroke, anti-retrovirals.” …

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Why Do Americans Believe In Muslim Rage?  (The New Yorker)

In “The Roots of Muslim Rage,” an essay published in 1990, the historian Bernard Lewis describes a “surge of hatred” rising from the Islamic world that “becomes a rejection of Western civilization as such.” The thesis became influential. It posited a crisis within a global Islamic community that made conflict with the United States and Europe inevitable. Academics and policymakers expanded on these ideas after September 11th, which brought urgently to the fore questions about how Al Qaeda’s radical ideas should be understood in relation to wider, diverse Muslim thought. (Lewis wrote an essay on the subject for this magazine in the autumn of 2001.) George W. Bush adopted some of the discourse in crafting his Global War on Terrorism. “They hate our freedoms,” the President said.

But the notion that a generalized Muslim anger about Western ideas could explain violence or politics from Indonesia to Bangladesh, from Iran to Senegal, seemed deficient. It was like arguing that authoritarian strains in Christianity could explain apartheid, Argentine juntas, and the rise of Vladimir Putin. Nevertheless, the meme sold, and it still sells. Last week, Newsweek’s cover splashed “Muslim Rage” in large type above a photograph of shouting men. Inside came advice on how to survive “Islamic hate.” Cable news channels—Fox and MSNBC alike—showed similar images, hour after hour. By now, many Americans must find nothing remarkable about the conflation of Muslim faith and contorted faces. …

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New Study Destroys Theory That Tax Cuts Spur Growth  (Business Insider)

…But is the theory true? Do tax cuts really spur growth?

The answer appears to be “no.”

According to a new study by the Congressional Research Service (non-partisan), there’s no evidence that tax cuts spur growth.

In fact, although correlation is not causation, when you compare economic growth in periods with declining tax rates versus periods with high tax rates, there seems to be evidence that tax cuts might hurt growth. But we’ll leave that possibility for another day.

One thing that tax cuts do unequivocally do–at least tax cuts for the highest earners–is increase economic inequality. Given that economic inequality is one of the biggest problems we face in this country right now, this conclusion is very important.

Before we go to the charts, a few observations.

First, this topic has become highly politicized, so it’s impossible to discuss it without people howling that you’re just rooting for a particular political team. Second, no one likes paying taxes. Third, everyone would like a tax cut, including me.

So I think we can all agree that everyone would prefer that tax cuts actually did spur economic growth.

Alas…

Okay, first let’s look at the top marginal tax rates for the past 60 years or so. These are not effective or average tax rates–they’re just the top marginal rates. As you can see, they’ve trended steadily down:

See post at Business Insider for the analysis and supporting data.

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Can Debt Spark a Revolution?  (David Graeber in The Nation)

Graeber thinks and works out on the margins of conventional sensibility where clues to the future are sometimes found. In looking to the future, say 10 years or so, my guess is that it’s better to overestimate than underestimate what he says here.

The idea of the “99 percent” managed to do something that no one has done in the United States since the Great Depression: revive the concept of social class as a political issue. What made this possible was a subtle change in the very nature of class power in this country, which, I have come to realize, has everything to do with debt.

As a member of the team that came up with the slogan “We Are the 99 Percent,” I can attest that we weren’t thinking of inequality or even simply class but specifically of class power. It’s now clear that the 1 percent are the creditors: those who are able to turn their wealth into political influence and their political influence back into wealth again. The overriding imperative of government policy is to do whatever it takes, using all available tools—fiscal, monetary, political, even military—to keep stock prices from falling. The most powerful empire on earth seems to exist first and foremost to guarantee the stream of wealth flowing into the hands of that tiny proportion of its population who hold financial assets. This allows an ever-increasing amount of wealth to flow back into the system of legalized bribery that American politics has effectively become. …

Most revolutions, revolts and insurrections in world history have revolved, at least to some degree, around debt, from the uprisings that created the Greek democracies to the American Revolution—or pretty much any other anticolonial revolt. We may be standing on the brink of a similar juncture. Yet history shows it’s notoriously difficult to assemble debtors into a coherent movement; indebtedness is isolating by nature, and the very feelings of anxiety and humiliation it sparks have made it a potent ideological tool. But history also reveals that when such movements do form, the results tend to be explosive.

What are the prospects for Occupy if it evolves into an explicit movement of debt resistance? If that happens, the battle will not be won by proposing policy changes. The power of Occupy was always that of delegitimation: an appeal to the profound feeling, shared by so many Americans, that our political class is so corrupted that it’s no longer capable of addressing the problems faced by ordinary citizens, let alone the world. To create a genuinely democratic system could only mean starting over entirely. …

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