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

Ah, Unity

The 2004 Democratic convention is a study in both discipline and in self-discipline. That makes it a refreshing rarity. Not only does the official program offer both consistency of message and a great variety of voices and styles; the restive Democratic base has been admirably, almost eerily, self-restrained. Advocates of universal health care may wish that John Kerry had embraced a single-payer plan, and peace activists may wish that he had renounced his vote for the Iraq War. But this year, everybody here is a realist, and there is no sniping at the nominee. The stakes are just too high. This self-restraint was not the case in such years as 1948, 1968, 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, or 2000 -- and the party often paid the price. Polls suggest that most individual delegates to this convention are to the left of Kerry on the issues. But the delegates, and even most of the cause activists in town, are adopting a both/and strategy: First, let's get the ticket elected; then, let's keep on...

Sheer Eloquence

Bill Clinton's address Monday night had to be one of best political speeches I've ever heard him -- or anyone -- give. He managed to be both masterful and self-deprecating. The riff about George W. Bush cutting this program and that program so that Clinton, the nouveau riche, could keep his tax cut was just brilliant. Likewise his deft inclusion of himself among the draft avoiders of his generation, such as Bush and Dick Cheney, while John Kerry said, "Send me." The observation that "strength and wisdom are not opposing values" was pure Clinton, an elegant insight that reminds us what a fool George W. Bush is without actually saying so. The rest of the speech, too, was superbly balanced in striking a largely affirmative tone, but leaving little doubt that Bush had made a mess of the country. Somehow, Clinton managed to be both momentous, and lighthearted. And, while taking ample credit for eight good years, he left no doubt that the speech was about Kerry. Indeed, it was a fine...

Financially Competitive?

While Democratic delegates and party notables are attending receptions and visiting Boston's sights, fund-raisers for independent-expenditure committees are trawling for dollars. The McCain-Feingold bill of 2002 really did transform politics, though not in a way that anybody predicted. It ended the era of unlimited donations to parties, while permitting endless donations to independent groups. (These groups are known as “527s,” after the section of the Internal Revenue Code that authorizes them.) At first, before the original McCain-Feingold bill was watered down, reformers actually hoped that it would reduce the role of money in politics. Then, when the compromise bill passed, allowing unlimited donations to 527s, Democrats groused that the result would increase the Republican advantage, as Republicans ultimately have more money than Democrats and Republican-leaning 527 groups can presumably outspend Democratic ones. But then something funny happened. Progressive fund-raisers got...

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...

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