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

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...

The Lone Patriot

The other day, editors of the American Prospect interviewed the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid. I pressed Reid about the difficulty that Democrats were having mounting a unified opposition to President Bush, even on issues like the badly bungled Medicare prescription drug program. Reid did not respond directly on privatized Medicare drugs, where his caucus is divided. Instead, the Minority Leader invoked the bravery of Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. Reid said, “An example of how people really appreciate your standing for what you believe is Russ Feingold, the only person [in the Senate] to vote against the Patriot Act -- the only person. The Republicans in 2004 spent tons of money going after him on that one issue, and it didn't matter because people believed that Russ Feingold did it because he thought it was the right thing to do.” Indeed, last year, when John Kerry carried Wisconsin by a bare 12,000 votes, Feingold sailed to re-election by over 330,000 votes. “I so...

Prescription for Leadership

Seemingly, divine providence has delivered the Democrats the perfect issue for 2006 -- the epic Medicare prescription-drug screwup. Far from being an abstract (if grave) public issue like nuclear non-proliferation, this one hits up close and personal. If you don't feel the drug debacle directly, you know about it from Mom or Grandpa. With its bewildering and useless “choices” of dozens of plans and vendors, its additional costs to more than six million low-income elderly Medicaid patients, its “doughnut hole” of huge out-of-pocket expenses, and windfall profits to the drug and insurance industries, the debacle also vividly demonstrates a core Democratic precept: Sometimes public purposes are better achieved directly through the public sector. Nor is this just a case of start-up glitches (when public Medicare began in 1966, there were few administrative problems). The fragmentation, inefficiency, and burden to the elderly are the predictable consequence of Bush's treatment of his...

Preserving Values

Reading about the escalating war of the cartoons and the deeper clash of faith versus reason, I recalled the wisdom of the British philosopher Edmund Burke. In March 1775, as King George grew more determined to punish uppity colonists in America. Burke gave an impassioned speech in the House of Commons, urging restraint. "The question with me," said Burke, "is not whether you have a right to render your people miserable, but whether it is not your interest to make them happy. It is not what a lawyer tells me I may do, but what humanity, reason, and justice tell me I ought to do." Did Europe's newspapers have the right to print cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Muhammed? Certainly. That's free speech. Was it a wise thing to do? Probably not. Of course, in an open society, these decisions are not made by a government cultural czar. They reflect norms of what is sensible and decent. And anyone is free to break those norms. But they are worth upholding. In the US, though we cherish free...

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