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

Thank You Mr. President:

Dear Mr. President, I didn't vote for you, but you keep making my day. The liberal magazine that I edit, The American Prospect, has doubled its circulation since last fall. Your administration is slavishly pro-business--but it's also good for our business. The more you keep pursuing policies that most people think are nuts, the more people are eager to find alternatives. Imagine, cutting taxes on the richest one percent of Americans, instead of giving ordinary people secure health care and good schools. Please--keep it up, Mr. President, and the sometimes gutless Democrats in Congress will come roaring back. You tried to squeeze crusty old Senator Jim Jeffords--everything from disinviting him from a major education event honoring a teacher from his own state to threatening Vermont's dairy farmers. You squeezed him so hard he quit the Republican party. Just when I think you've learned something--when it looks like you've decided to repair to the middle of the road and be the kind of...

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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