Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, a professor at Brandeis University's Heller School, and a distinguished senior fellow of the think tank Demos. He was a longtime columnist for Business Week and continues to write columns in The Boston Globe. He is the author of Obama's Challenge and other books.

Recent Articles

Beware Bush Words On Benefits

Although his proposed tax cut has captured the headlines, President Bush's budget is also offering America a radically different path for its two best-loved programs, Social Security and Medicare. Until recently, these towering monuments of social insurance were politically untouchable. Even President Reagan, who was at least honest about his conservative goals, did not dare mess with Social Security. Medicare, until lately, has also been sacrosanct. Both parties have vied with each other to pose as its champion. But buried in the fine print of the Bush budget and obscured by its rhetoric are two fundamental changes that would shift costs and risks from the social insurance pool to the individual for both Medicare and Social Security. As in the campaign, Bush has proved to be a master of cloaking radically conservative ideas in disarmingly liberal language. To listen to his budget message, for example, you'd think he was proposing prescription drug coverage for all seniors. But the...

Getting Over The Lock Box

For six decades, Democrats have been proud defenders of America's most popular government program, Social Security. But the debate is now becoming so muddled that when the dust settles, Social Security may well end up partly privatized with George W. Bush getting credit for saving it. How could this have happened? Twenty years ago, it became clear that Social Security needed adjustment because people were living longer. Unlike a private retirement account, Social Security keeps sending the checks as long as you live. In 1983, Congress slightly raised both taxes and the retirement age. It also adjusted the cost-of-living formula. These changes deliberately caused Social Security to take in more money than it paid out, through about 2013. This was done to bank reserves so that the system could keep paying full benefits when the baby-boom generation retires. Then the system will need to tap those reserves. These modifications will keep the system solvent until the 2030s. What then? There...

Gore's Gamble With Lieberman

Jewish immigrants to America used to respond anxiously to any major public news event by asking: Is it good for the Jews? Al Gore's embrace of Joe Lieberman invites a new twist: Is it good for the Democrats? I'm torn. On the one hand, Gore's choice signals boldness. And it could give America an elevated debate about religious tolerance of the sort we haven't seen since John Kennedy and maybe since Thomas Jefferson. On the other hand, it could inflame American tribalism. And the designation ofthe centrist Lieberman, quite apart from his religion, kisses off the Democratic party's liberal and trade union base. Now the liberal on the ticket, relatively, is Gore. The more hopeful scenario goes something like this: Not only does Lieberman make it much harder for Republicans to rail against the amorality of ''Clinton-Gore.'' But who better than an orthodox Jew to trip up the fundamentalist right? Moral Majority types think they have a monopoly on...

Bush Is Playing With Religious Fire

Does George W. Bush appreciate what fire he is playing with when he stirs up the religious right? It is almost as if we are on the road to religious war. In so many corners of the globe, people are brutalizing their neighbors because each is convinced that he has a direct pipeline to the true deity, while the outsider is a dangerous infidel. Whether in the Middle East, or Ireland, Iran or Afghanistan, state-fomented religious intolerance is the great blight on the right of ordinary people to live as they choose, as well as a grave threat to the peace. Colleague James Carroll's recent best-selling book, ''Constantine's Sword,'' recounted the appalling history of how militant Christians slaughtered millions of outsiders, in the name of the healing word of Jesus of Nazareth. As we see from the seemingly insoluble conflicts in Ireland and Israel, religious difference quickly degenerates into tribalism. The conflicts have long since ceased to be about the correct form of worship, but about...

Comment: Happier Prospects

A s we go to press, the prospect of Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords switching parties has cheered despondent Democrats. However, it's not clear where a party-switch free-for-all would end, since several maverick senators in both parties would be in play. Of course, having Tom Daschle as majority leader, and having the power to orchestrate hearings, could be very important for Democrats, in setting agendas, exposing abuses, blocking extremist nominees, and restoring morale and momentum. Loss of the Senate would be a personal as well as a philosophical rebuke to Bush, and a broader warning to the White House about the risks of overreaching. But before we break out the champagne, remember that four or five Senate Democrats still seem inclined to vote with Bush, and Jeffords doesn't change that. The fact remains that Democrats, hobbled by defectors in their own ranks, are still fighting mostly a rearguard action. There is no coherent alternative program rousing popular excitement, and a...

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