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

Saving General Motors

The United Auto Workers union (UAW) has agreed to save General Motors over a billion dollars a year in health insurance costs. This is a disguised pay-cut, since workers will now pay more out of pocket for their healthcare. The union agreed to this desperation deal to help keep GM alive. The once-dominant auto-maker posted a record $1.1 billion loss in the third quarter; and its former parts division, Delphi, with 34,000 union jobs, has just gone into bankruptcy. If and when it emerges, Delphi's $26-an-hour workers will be cut to something like $12. That gets your attention. The union leadership was so eager to help GM survive that the UAW filed an unusual suit intended to block its own union retirees from challenging the negotiated health-benefit cuts. Now Ford has just reported a $284 million third-quarter loss, and wants the same kind of deal the UAW gave GM. Even with these concessions, the industry that once was the core of America's blue-collar middle class is continuing its...

Dial M For Maddening

Are you one of those people who loves voice-recognition software -- a machine posing as a virtual person -- when you are trying to change a flight, straighten out a bill, or get your phone line fixed? American business is training consumers to follow this routine -- and like it. If anybody should know how to get the technology and the customer psychology right, it's the phone company. ''Voice recognition does work," says Jim Smith, of Verizon's media-relations office. Smith cites Verizon's customer focus groups. These show that consumers are initially skeptical, he says, ''because they're afraid they're going to screw it up." But once they get used to it, Smith explains, people like it because voice software is faster and more efficient than waiting for an operator. Since 1999, Verizon has gradually expanded voice recognition from directory assistance to billing inquiries to repair. Well, not this consumer. The first difficulty is that if your problem is the least bit complex -- let's...

Liberalism, Socialism, and Democracy

What, if anything, can be usefully salvaged from the socialist tradition, now that communism lies in final disgrace? Paul Starr argued in these pages last fall that four developments -- the implosion of communism, the collapse of efforts to reform communism from within, the failure of socialism in the Third World, and the shift of European socialists toward liberal policies -- should persuade American liberals that socialism ought not to be part of our vision of an ideal society. What follows is less a rejoinder than a brief for social democracy, as a tradition that loathed communism and may yet enrich liberalism. Social democracy, for at least a century, has been the domesticated form of socialism -- a vaccine made of benign cultures that can inoculate against the ravages of both communism and laissez faire. Social democracy, certainly, is no mechanical third way. As a worldview, it accepts private ownership and parliamentary democracy, yet retains a broadly egalitarian ethic and...

Solid Feingold

President Bush, faced with plummeting support for the war in Iraq, keeps turning to an old standby. In another high-profile speech on Thursday, Bush warned Americans to be terrified of terror, and tried once again to tie Iraq to al-Qaeda and the attacks of September 11. The public isn't buying it. A large majority -- 64 to 32 in CBS polls -- opposes Bush's conduct of the war. Yet the opposition party has been mostly missing in action. Democratic pollsters and political advisers seem to believe that with Bush failing as a war president Democrats should stay out of the way and let him sink. There is an obsessive worry that Democrats, above all, cannot risk looking weak on defense. If the war keeps going badly and Democrats are seen as opposing it, one strategist told me, they risk getting the blame. Senior foreign policy Democrats, such as Senators Joseph Biden, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton, have been willing to criticize Bush's decision to take the country to war on false pretenses...

The Math Of The Aftermath

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina raises urgent policy challenges, for both the immediate future and the long term. Tragically, there is no sign that the administration is rising to either of them. It is now painfully clear that both prevention and relief in the case of disasters like Katrina requires something that conservatives reject -- government planning. In the absence of competent planning, levies are not maintained, development proceeds helter-skelter, public investment flows on the basis of pork-barrel politics, and rescue efforts resemble biblical catastrophes. Fully four years after September 11, and three years after a Homeland Security Department was cobbled together, the federal government has failed to help cities and states develop effective emergency plans for large-scale disasters, whether from terrorist actions or natural shocks. Some cities are better prepared than others, but the process of contingency planning for maintaining civil order, getting food, water,...

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