Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, and professor at Brandeis University's Heller School. His latest book is Debtors' Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility. He writes columns for The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe and the New York Times international edition. 

Recent Articles

Weakest Link

Will the economy be a big liability for President Bush's reelection campaign, as it was for his father in 1992? Or will it turn up just in time, as it did for Ronald Reagan in 1984? And will the economy matter? First, the optimists' case. The stock market, which enjoyed a good quarter, often leads recoveries. The unemployment rate of 6.4 percent -- the worst in nine years -- looks bad. But if you take a closer look, say the bulls, the economy has stopped shedding jobs; the unemployment rate keeps rising because more people are looking for work. And those tax cuts, now totaling more than $4 trillion, have to produce economic stimulus sometime soon. The Federal Reserve is helping by lowering interest rates to the lowest level since 1958. That keeps the housing boom going and saves consumers money on everything from refinancings to car payments. So the economy may not be spectacular, say the Bushies and their allies, but it will be good enough. And in any case, the economy remains Topic...

Double Dealing

When push comes to shove, President Bush postures moderate, but delivers for his right-wing base. Consider two epic legislative struggles still playing out -- whether to add a stripped-down drug benefit to Medicare and whether to extend tax relief to lower-income working families. Two other key players in this drama are the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, and Karl Rove, the White House political adviser. In the case of Medicare, Rove's opinion polls told him that Bush needed to be able to claim credit for delivering a drug benefit for the elderly -- a group that votes and one that's reeling from skyrocketing medical expenses. The actual measure the House passed is a terrible bill. It creates new pressures for seniors to move from traditional Medicare to HMOs, and it leaves even those who buy the additional insurance exposed to thousands of dollars in prescription drug bills. Even so, conservative Republicans were loath to create a new $40 billion-a-year entitlement. The Wall Street...

Court Gesture

The 5-4 Supreme Court decision upholding narrowly crafted affirmative action programs is being celebrated by everyone from civil rights activists and university presidents to military officers and corporate CEOs. Tolerance and diversity are now mainstream values. Yet the survival of affirmative action could be short-lived. The Bush administration opposes both the Michigan admissions plan and the constitutional principle affirmed Monday that race could legitimately be a factor in assembling a diverse class of students or a diverse workplace. And President Bush, if he gets his way, will soon have the most radically reactionary High Court in modern history. Two or three justices have told friends they wish to retire and could well step down this summer. The most likely are Sandra Day O'Connor, who wrote the majority opinion in the Michigan case, and John Paul Stevens, who voted with O'Connor. That would leave just three justices in favor of even the limited affirmative action that the...

The Demo Derby

George Stephanopoulos: Sen. Kerry ... earlier this week, your campaign questioned whether or not Gov. Dean was fit to be commander in chief. Do you think he's fit? John Kerry: I think Gov. Dean made a statement which I found quite extraordinary, and I still do. He said that America has to prepare for the day when we will not be the strongest military in the world. I mean, that's his statement. I didn't make it up; he said it. -- from the Democrats' South Carolina debate, May 3, 2003 If you saw that debacle of a debate, you watched moderator George Stephanopoulos bait the Democratic field into attacking one another. Not that most of them needed much baiting, having been sniping either directly or through staff efforts all spring. Here is the debate we should have seen: Stephanopoulos: Rep. Gephardt, Sen. Edwards called your health plan a trillion-dollar giveaway to corporations. How do you reply? Dick Gephardt: Well, George, I've proposed giving tax credits to corporations to buy...

Economic Roulette

It's easy to understand why the administration is plowing ahead with one immense tax cut after another. The Bush people oppose social outlays, and the best strategy for cutting public services is to starve government. It's a neat game: Cut taxes on the Republican watch (Reagan, Bush I), force intervening Democratic presidents to opt for fiscal prudence over social investment -- someone has to -- and then, when the budget is back in balance at a lower level of social outlay, do it again (Bush II). This maneuver forces Democrats to take responsibility for periodically raising taxes to undo the economic damage. Putting budget balance ahead of social outlay also undercuts the traditional Democratic winning formula of delivering services that ordinary Americans actually value. No serious independent economist believes that the Bush tax cut is sensible growth policy. If the administration were serious about restoring growth and preferred tax cutting as the mechanism, far more of the tax cut...

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