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

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,...

Storm Surge

What will the twin hurricanes do to the U.S. economy? The Federal Reserve seems to think not terribly much. This past week, the Fed continued hiking interest rates, the eleventh such increase since June 2004. This tighter-money policy is intended to cool an overheated economy -- but the economy suddenly doesn't seem all that strong. Katrina is forcing the Bush administration to borrow even more money, to pay for the program of reconstruction that the administration hastily threw together last week. Federal outlays will eventually total over $200 billion. Deficit spending, of course, stimulates the economy. And though Alan Greenspan has been something of an enabler of George W. Bush's big deficits by blessing the president's tax cuts, Greenspan now thinks that these big deficits need to be offset by higher interest rates. But the hurricane damage and the resulting jolt to oil prices could change this calculus. Gulf coast refineries provide more than one-fourth of America's domestic...

The Eye Of The Relief Effort

One thing we learned from Hurricane Katrina is that America still has a lot of poor people, who are disproportionately black and mostly invisible to the affluent and to the media. Behind the glitzy stage set of the quaint New Orleans tourist economy was a grindingly poor city. Most poor people work for a living, just like most middle-class people do. They are the people who the Rev. Jesse Jackson famously said ''take the early bus," and take care of other people's young children and aging parents, sometimes at cost to their own families. In this decade, the working poor have not done well. The Labor Department reports that wages of nonmanagement workers have lagged behind inflation, and those of low-income workers in particular. President Bush, on the defensive, has announced a new program of rebuilding. It's a reminder that circumstances sometimes require even conservatives to recognize the indispensability of government. But look a little deeper. Bush's approach doesn't really...

Leadership, Please

George W. Bush's cynicism and incompetence have come back to haunt him, earlier than might have been predicted. As a result, history has dealt Democrats an opportunity. Whether they will rise to the occasion remains to be seen. Michael Tomasky addresses the politics of the New Orleans catastrophe elsewhere in this issue. Although Hurricane Katrina has knocked the Iraq debacle off the front pages, American public opinion continues to desert President Bush on the war. Recent polls show that Americans disapprove of Bush's handling of Iraq by 60 percent to 36 percent. And a majority believes that we are losing ground there, and that the war was a mistake. The president's general approval ratings are at a rock-bottom 38 percent, about the hardcore Republican voting base. But if the Democrats are not careful, leading Republican critics of the Bush Iraq policy will end up outflanking Democrats as war critics. Among senior Democrats, only Russ Feingold has had the nerve to call for a phased...

The Defectors

Rick Larsen is a third-term Democratic representative from Lake Stevens in Washington state. A balding former publicist for the Washington State Dental Association, Larsen, 40, is a proud member of the New Democrat Coalition. His district, Washington's 2nd, runs north from the Seattle suburbs to the Canadian border. It is, on balance, fairly liberal -- George W. Bush lost the district in both 2000 and 2004 -- and Larsen's seat is secure. After a closer race in 2002, Larsen won this traditionally Democratic district last year almost 2 to 1. Yet Larsen's voting record doesn't reflect these numbers: He voted in favor of the bankruptcy bill crafted by the credit-card industry, the Bush administration's estate-tax repeal, and the tort “reform” bill supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce limiting the right to sue. Three-thousand miles away, in a working- and middle-class majority African American district, Gregory Meeks of Queens, New York, voted for two of these three conservative Bush...

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