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 Young And The Debtless

This Labor Day, wage-workers have little to celebrate. Though unemployment is down, job insecurity is up. Health and pension benefits are dwindling. Weakened worker bargaining power is reflected in flat earnings. According to a new report from the Census Bureau, real wages of fulltime workers fell 2.3 percent for men and 1 percent for women between 2003-04, and median family income declined by $1,669 since 2000. Productivity is up 15 percent, but gains have gone to profits, not wages. The Economic Policy Institute calculates that the median hourly wage, $16.13 in July 2005, is right where it was in November 2001, when the current recovery began. Adjusted for inflation, the median wage back then was $16.15. One group of workers is particularly hard-hit by multiple trends -- the young. The young are less likely to have jobs with decent health insurance. If they have pensions at all, they are typically plans at risk for stock-market fluctuations; they are far less likely to have defined...

E-mail Addiction

I recently took a short vacation. The very best thing about it was not the lovely walks, the concerts, the tennis, or just lazing and reading. The best thing was being away from e-mail. (And the worst thing was coming back to 482 messages.) The stuff is like kudzu. I'm not even talking about spam -- the unwanted commercial solicitations for everything from penis enlargements to Nigerian banking scams. Nor am I complaining about reader responses to my column, which I appreciate. If I weren't reading electronic comments, I'd be absorbing old-fashioned letters. No, I'm referring to everyday e-mail from people I know -- co-workers, friends, and acquaintances who assume that e-mail is what we do all day. I find it appalling to sometimes get responses within a minute or two of sending a message. This suggests that the recipient is compulsively checking e-mail all the time. How can these people get any work done? Don't they have anything better to do? We are becoming a nation of attention-...

Independence Over Iraq

Ordinary American public opinion on the Iraq war is nearing a tipping point. The question is how elites -- the White House, the military, Republicans and Democrats in Congress -- will now respond. The public has grasped that the Bush Iraq policy has made the Middle East more dangerous, for U.S. armed forces and for the U.S. national interest. This reality is widely sinking in, except to a narrowing circle of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and a compliant George W. Bush. Not a day goes by without some surprise attack in Iraq showing the insurgency gaining, not on the run. Civil society for ordinary Iraqis is getting more dangerous, not more orderly. The enterprise of “nation-building,” an idea once ridiculed by candidate Bush, has become the disaster he warned about. It took the founders of America more than a decade to get from the failed Articles of Confederation to the Philadelphia convention and the 1789 Constitution. The Iraqis, far more divided and under siege, face absurd U.S...

Beyond Red And Blue

To hear network commentators and read innumerable press stories, you would think the United States was divided into two bitterly opposed cultural worlds known as red states and blue states. As widely used political concepts, these phrases actually date back only to the 2000 presidential elections, when all the networks used the same color-coded maps to show which states went Republican or Democrat. But a very lazy press corps has increasingly used the terms as shorthand. They have now passed into the political language, reinforcing the image of an America split into hardened and warring camps. The reality is quite different. In the very close 2004 election, for instance, the contest was decided by 10 points or less in 21 states. And a surprising number of states voted one way for president, the other for senator or governor. Montana, which George W. Bush won by better than 20 points, elected a Democratic governor and gave Democrats control of both houses of the legislature. Wyoming,...

Chopping Unions

To nobody's great surprise, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Teamsters have left the AFL-CIO, and at least two other unions may soon follow. In part, this schism reflects rivalries of turf, personality, pride, and money -- the ambition of new challengers versus the self-interest and dignity of the existing leadership. The challengers didn't have the support to vote John Sweeney out, so they walked. As my friend Marshall Ganz, former organizing director of the United Farm Workers, observes, this schism is also about principled differences of how to rebuild a struggling movement. Organize by trade, industry, or community? Build a centralized movement or a popular, democratic one? These differences have echoes in the history of the labor movement, going back to the 19th-century Knights of Labor, the “Wobblies,” and the Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO). Ironically, Sweeney himself is a militant at heart. As the anti-establishment candidate in 1995, he...

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