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

Comment: The Political Fed

S o Alan Greenspan is a political animal. What--you were expecting a philosopher-king? A lot of people who should know better were taken by surprise when Fed Chairman Greenspan made George W. Bush's inaugural week by embracing a big tax cut. But it's not as if Greenspan got this far on, say, charm. As Bob Woodward's recent biography of him makes clear, Greenspan for more than a decade outmaneuvered other members of the Fed's board of governors and made such tactical alliances as he needed to survive. One such temporary alliance was with Bill Clinton. Once Clinton agreed to the stringent program of deficit reduction the Fed wanted, Greenspan was willing to make Clinton look good. The Fed not only cut interest rates, but Greenspan gamely sat next to Hillary during the president's State of the Union address and applauded the Clinton program. Clinton, not surprisingly, reappointed Greenspan. But that was...

Democrats Must Regroup to Fight Tax Cut

Propelled by Alan Greenspan's sudden conversion, George W. Bush's crusade for a massive general tax cut seems all but unstoppable. The Democrats need to offer something better, and fast, or we will soon have Reagan II. Here is the background: The federal budget surplus will total some $5.6 trillion over the next decade, even allowing for a moderate recession. $2.5 trillion of that surplus belongs to Social Security, to be paid in retirement checks when baby boomers retire later in this century. That leaves over $3 trillion, or something like $300 billion a year. Until now, many Democrats thought they could hold the line against a massive tax cut by arguing that we should use the money to pay off the national debt. This was never smart policy, and it has now been exposed as empty politics. When Alan Greenspan outflanks you as a fiscal moderate, it's clear you got it wrong. The problem is that the surplus just...

Help The Poor Instead of The Rich

What else might we accomplish if we didn't give back 1.6 trillion dollars in tax cuts, about half of the money to millionaires? For starters, we could end poverty in America - by making sure that work pays a living wage and that children don't pay the price when mothers work. In 1996, President Clinton and the Republican Congress ended welfare as we knew it. Welfare was replaced with a new program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This compromise put time limits on public assistance and required recipients to find jobs - but also added supports to help single mothers of small children succeed at work. Luckily for its sponsors, the program coincided with an economic boom, so jobs were plentiful. Details were left to the states. Some chose to help welfare mothers improve their living standards through paid employment, with child care, job training, and outreach to make sure families got the Medicaid and food stamps they needed. Other states just slashed the rolls, and...

The Brutal Price of Bush's Tax Cut

The great budget surplus is evaporating. The culprit is George W. Bush's tax cut, compounded by the economic slowdown. Seemingly, this spells bad political news for Bush. He is having to violate his pledge that the Social Security surplus would never be tapped for general government outlays. The vanishing surplus vindicates the criticism that the tax cut was excessive, and also sets back spending plans for pet administration boondoggles, such as missile defense. All of this gives the opposition Democrats lots of ammunition for now. But hold the champagne. This whole way of thinking about budget politics is a long-term trap for Democrats. Budget politics now equates austerity with virtue. Defending the surplus is good; spending it is bad. The surplus is also associated with protecting Social Security. Supposedly, by using the current Social Security surplus accounts to retire public debt, we set the stage for new borrowing 40 years in the future when Social Security payouts could...

Tax-Cut Battle Lost, Democrats Can't Let Up Now

In losing $1.35 trillion of federal revenue to George W. Bush's tax cut, the Democrats lost an important battle, but maybe they haven't lost the war. The war, in this case, is a principled conflict between two contending philosophies of governance and the good society. Should people fend mostly for themselves or should some needs be provided socially? In this debate, conservatives want to shrink social spending. Since the Reagan era, the Republican grand design has been to starve government for resources. President Reagan accomplished that, big time, with his massive tax cut of 1981. That tax cut was responsible for more than a decade of spending cuts and escalating budget deficits, which increased the national debt by more than $3 trillion. The Democrats barely got those deficits under control and began to contemplate restoring some social spending when the Republicans came back in and cut taxes again. Seemingly, Bush's $1.35 trillion tax cut, most of it to the wealthy, removes money...

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