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 Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism? In addition to writing for the Prospect, he writes for The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, and the New York Review of Books. 

Follow Bob at his site, robertkuttner.com, and on Twitter. 

Recent Articles

Elephant in the Voting Booth

On democratic wrongs both past and present, as told by two books and a new commission study on reform.

Building Confidence in U.S. Elections by The Commission on Federal Election Reform (Carter-Baker Commission) ( 113 pages, free at american.edu/ia/cfer/report/full_report.pdf ) Three's a Crowd: The Dynamic of Third Parties, Ross Perot, and Republican Resurgence by Ronald B. Rapoport and Walter J. Stone ( University of Michigan Press, 296 pages, $29.95 ) The Two Reconstructions: The Struggle for Black Enfranchisement by Richard M. Valelly ( University of Chicago Press, 348 pages, $22.50 ) What makes a nation a democracy? Joseph Schumpeter famously concluded that the key criterion is competition for leadership. For the citizenry to be able to throw the rascals out, the other democratic essentials are logical complements. You can't oust incumbents without tolerably fair elections, which in turn requires free speech and the ability to campaign with adequate resources and without intimidation. The devil, of course, is in the details, as Americans learned so painfully in 2000 and 2004. Is...

Failures of Politics

When historians review this era, they will point to the striking failure of our political system to engage, much less remedy, the most pressing national problems. Consider a few key examples: The most notable economic fact is a 25-year decline in living standards of ordinary Americans during a period of rising productivity. As Paul Krugman noted, more than half the income lost by the bottom 80 percent since 1979 was captured by the top one-quarter of one percent. If democracy were working, this would be Topic A. Both parties would be competing to persuade voters that they were serious about raising living standards for regular Americans. Mostly, that issue is off the political radar screen. Meanwhile, systems of employer-provided health care and pensions are collapsing, shifting risks and costs to individuals. Imagine -- earnings, health care, and retirement security! If these are not of interest to ordinary voters, nothing is. But even more dire political defaults loom. Despite Enron...

Of Markets and Morals

The US political elite has finally encountered a situation where globalization isn't an unmitigated blessing. President Bush, having used the fear factor to trump every other issue, was caught flat-footed when public opinion recoiled at a Persian Gulf company taking charge of major US ports. The Dubai case was a genuinely close question. On the one hand, non-US companies already own US port operations. And the US Coast Guard is responsible for port security, regardless of who owns the facilities. On the other hand, it's harder to monitor the executives of a company based in the United Arab Emirates, and Al Qaeda might have an easier time infiltrating a Dubai company than a domestic one. These details got lost in the political uproar. The Dubai ports affair invites a closer examination of the premise that the freest possible commerce in goods and services is all benefit and no cost. Let's see whether we are ready to take a serious look at complications of globalism. There have long...

Keep 'em Regulated

The purchase of KeySpan by the British energy giant National Grid PLC is only the latest in a wave of mergers and consolidations of deregulated gas and electric utilities. While the new system of free-market utilities is supposed to be good for consumers, public utility deregulation has been mainly an invitation to price-gouging and greater risks to the system's reliability. Consider the experience of electricity rate-payers in Massachusetts, where the Legislature deregulated electric power in the late 1990s. The move broke up integrated and regulated utility companies and allowed markets to set prices. In theory, this shift was supposed to free utilities to shop for the best price of wholesale power. Consumers in turn could shop among utilities for the best deal. The market would deliver power more efficiently and reliably, and everyone would be better off. It hasn't worked out that way. During the 1990s, before deregulation, retail electricity prices in Massachusetts were...

College Rankings or Junk Science?

It's approaching that season when students and their parents anxiously await college admissions decisions. But increasingly, an equally feverish process is infecting the other side of the transaction and distorting the process of who gets financial aid. Colleges these days engage in an ever more frantic competition for ''rankings," driven almost entirely by the annual U.S. News & World Report issue on ''America's Best Colleges." U.S. News is so dominant that when a dean boasts that his school is ranked in the top 10, or a president's bonus is based on whether his college makes it into the top 50, they invariably refer to U.S. News . Massive efforts by admission departments, deans, and college presidents are devoted to gaming the U.S. News ranking system, published every August. This includes everything from manipulating who is considered a part-time student (which raises the reported performance of full-time students) to giving students temporary research jobs in order to raise...

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