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

Watching '13 Days,' Worrying About Today

Watching the new movie ''Thirteen Days,'' I got really scared. What frightened me was not just the vivid memories from my childhood of October 1962, when we all huddled around the TV and wondered if the world would be blown up. What really terrified me was the thought of George W. Bush rather than John F. Kennedy as commander in chief during this kind of crisis. For those who haven't seen the movie or read the history or were not born in 1962, here is the story line: The CIA discovers that the Russians have secretly moved offensive nuclear missiles to Cuba. They will be operational in two weeks, giving the Russians, for the first time, a first-strike capacity against the United States, dramatically tilting the strategic balance in Russia's favor. The military wants to take out the missiles. But the Kennedy brothers grasp that a direct US attack on Russian soldiers and technicians in Cuba would kill hundreds of Russians...

Comment: Schlemiel, Schlimazel

One of my favorite hoary bits of Jewish humor explains the difference between a schlemiel (a fool) and a schlimazel (one prone to misfortune): A schlemiel is the traveler who spills his coffee on a fellow passenger. A schlimazel is the fellow he spills it on. Vice President Al Gore has to be the schlimazel of American politics. Just when he begins gaining a little ground, someone (often Bill Clinton) spills coffee on him. A recent case in point is the WTO/China/labor-rights/AFL-CIO fiasco. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney called in IOUs all over the labor movement to swing the labor federation's endorsement for Gore. This was no small achievement. Labor is divided among public sector/service unions, such as Sweeney's alma mater, the Service Employees International Union, and industrial unions. Public employee unions depend heavily on administration goodwill and are fond of Clinton and Gore. The big industrial unions, however, cannot stomach the administration's trade policy. Moreover,...

Comment: Labor Man

N ew Democrats would not be wrong to view this year's Democratic national convention as their own victory rally. Though the party platform offered brave words to comfort liberals, the details were safely moderate. Running mate Joe Lieberman, president of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), is about as centrist a figure as the Democratic Party has outside the deep South. A New Republic cover exulted, "How the Democrats Buried the Left," citing Lieberman, Congressman Dick Gephardt's rapprochement with Gore, the relative isolation of labor, and the New Democrat themes that dominate Gore's campaign. But is burying the left a smart thing for Democrats to do? Where does it leave the labor movement's alliance with the Democratic Party? And does it strengthen or weaken Gore's chances to be the next president? The best thing about Lieberman is the way he trumps the ace of the Christian right. You want faith, we got faith. You want religious...

Out of Los Angeles, a Resurgence for Labor

You may not have heard of Antonio Villaraigosa, but in about a month he is likely to be on the cover of Time and Newsweek. Villaraigosa is the front-runner to become the first Latino mayor of Los Angeles in the June 5 election. Almost more important, his likely win is the fruit of a remarkable resurgence of the labor movement in LA, based substantially on the organizing of the immigrant and low-wage work force. His emergence is an emblem of the most interesting social movement since the civil rights era. Villaraigosa less than a decade ago was a union organizer. He got elected to the California State Assembly, quickly rising to speaker by 1998. That this man may soon be mayor of the largest city in America's largest state is one of the few hopeful harbingers for liberals in an era that seems not only politically conservative but politically dead. Both parties in a sense have become the party of Washington, and most voters don't seem to be paying attention. The Democrats, now in...

Of Our Time: Globalism Bites Back

T he Asian financial crisis is a practical rebuttal to the naive internationalism that is America's foreign economic policy. Naive globalism includes these precepts: The freest possible movement of goods and services maximizes economic efficiency, hence human well-being. If free competition is good nationally, it is even better globally. With a few basic ground rules, such as respect for private property and equal access to markets, liberal capitalism is essentially self-regulating. At bottom, there is one true form of capitalism. It entails a relatively minimal role for the state. In principle, the size of the public sector and the level of taxation and public services are matters for national choice. The burden of proof, however, is always on government intervention, since taxation restricts individual choice and depresses incentives, while regulation distorts market prices. Above all, markets should be transparent and porous, and prices should be set by private supply and demand...

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