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

Security Excess

When it comes to convention security, Boston is a case of wretched excess. They've closed Route 93, the major north-south commuter road into (and out of) town, between 4 p.m. and 1 a.m. And, to add insult to injury, they've also shut North Station, one of the mail commuter-rail hubs. Many Boston merchants are literally sleeping in their stores. Who is the genius behind this decision? The U.S. Secret Service. Once a city requests Secret Service protection for a "national-security event," city officials and Secret Service officials form a joint task force and try to work out a plan, but the Secret Service has the last word in the event of a disagreement. Why shut down the main highway? Because it runs right by the Fleet Center, and North Station is just next door. Someone could put a large bomb on the highway, or in the station, and blow away the convention. Of course, it's not clear why it would be OK to blow up half of downtown Boston the other 361 days of the year. Why not just shut...

Dismissing Class

Social class is one of the most explosive issues in American politics. Like any explosive, it can dramatically transform a landscape -- or blow up in the user's face. There are far more ordinary wage-earning people than wealthy investors and corporate moguls, but the political right has done far better at using class solidarity to its advantage than the liberal left. Americans like to view their country as a wide-open land of opportunity. Most consider themselves middle class, and most are uneasy thinking in terms of class at all. It's the rich who understand and act on class interests. The Bush presidency has intensified a trend that began under Ronald Reagan -- widening inequality that benefited those at the very top. This shift has been carried out not just through tax policy but through cuts in social outlays and changes in regulations that made it easier for chief executives and other financial insiders to enrich themselves at the expense of ordinary workers and small investors...

Teachable Moments

Every week, celebrate a public hero.

One of the emblematic movements of the 1990s was an ideologically ambiguous crusade called Reinventing Government. It took its name from a surprise best-seller by David Osborne and Ted Gaebler. The idea was that we still need government, but we need it to be leaner, more flexible, more adaptive--a more customer-driven government that steers more and rows less. This clever mantra had particular appeal for New Democrats, and it was ready-made for Bill Clinton. Reinventing Government allowed moderates to embrace public purpose, but also to posture as modern and market-like (like the conservatives) and oppose the straw man of big, bad, bureaucratic command-and-control government. The reinventors of government could be for deregulation and privatization, and even be part of the chorus of catcalls against the caricatured Democratic past, yet feel they were not abetting the cruder movement to destroy government. They were merely bringing it up to date. The impulse was noble, but the...

Problem Children

Congressional Republicans are hoping to pass yet another budget-busting tax cut this summer and manipulate Democrats into voting for it by using poor children as the bait. In 2001 and 2003, Congress passed legislation providing a child tax credit for the middle class that gradually rose to $1,000 per child, but Republicans excluded working-class children who needed help the most. In the 2003 law, families earning between $10,500 and $26,625 got nothing, including 260,000 children of active-duty servicemen and women. All told, about one child in four was excluded. Working-class families were left out because their breadwinners are too poor to pay much federal income tax. Republicans argued that anyone who paid little or no income taxes had not earned tax relief. Of course, these families do pay sales taxes, payroll taxes, excise taxes, and property taxes. Republicans are now proposing to extend token benefits to lower-income families, but their price is a dramatic expansion of the tax...

Kerry Picked a Winner

A lot of Democrats breathed a big sigh of relief yesterday when John Kerry named John Edwards as his running mate. At the most obvious level, Edwards brings two things that Kerry has sometimes lacked. He brings personal excitement plus a capacity to connect with non-rich voters on pocketbook issues. If Kerry sometimes seems patrician and aloof, Edwards has a common touch. More than any Democrat in the vice presidential field, Edwards is able to enlist culturally conservative, white, working class voters who may be gun-toting, abortion-hating, Arab-bashing, tub-thumping fundamentalists but who know that the economy is not delivering for them. At least some of these voters are willing to give some Democrats a hearing some of the time. That is how Edwards managed to win a Senate seat in the Bible Belt. It's unlikely that a Kerry-Edwards ticket will carry North Carolina, and it may not carry any of the South save perhaps Florida and Tennessee. But that same capacity to reach culturally...

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