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

Greenspan Speak

Alan Greenspan is a gold-plated hypocrite. Last week the Federal Reserve Chairman, speaking at a conference in Chicago, warned that the endless federal deficits had become "a significant obstacle to long-term security because the budget deficit is not subject to correction by market forces." What does Greenspan think caused the deficit - sunspots? He doesn't deign to say. But everyone else knows. While increased military spend ing is part of the story, the huge imbalances that rightly worry the Fed chairman are mainly the predictable result of President Bush's immense tax cuts. At the time of their enactment, not only did Greenspan fail to warn against the danger; he even gave tax cuts his support. Greenspan's early ideological moorings as a far-right Republican accolyte of Ayn Rand continued to trump his current responsibilities as chief central banker. It's one thing to deliberately run a deficit during a recession. It's quite another to deliberately blow a huge hole in the...

Come Together

If liberals and New Democrats sometimes seem like the Hatfields and McCoys of center-left politics, it's because we each believe passionately that America's progressive soul is worth fighting for. For the most part, these debates within the family reflect principled disagreements about the best strategy for achieving both a just society and a progressive majority that embraces it. But though we still may disagree about some details, after years of radically conservative dominance of national politics, we find ourselves in vehement agreement with a simple proposition: The radical right is closing avenues of opportunity to working Americans. This right-wing dominance, however, has produced a new unity on the progressive side. In this spirit, a group of us has gathered under a flag of truce to work out an alternative to Bushonomics: a progressive growth strategy for expanding the middle class. Let's grant that it's not fair to blame presidents for all that goes wrong on their watch or to...

Baghdad Blues

For the most part, John Kerry has a far more sensible Iraq policy than George W. Bush does, and this should serve him well in the campaign. Yet if Kerry is not careful, Bush's quagmire could turn into Kerry's. In his speeches, Kerry has warned that we need to remove the "Made in America" label from the occupation. Kerry would give a UN High Commissioner for Governance and Reconstruction dominant role. He would replace the US force with a NATO force under an American military commander. So far, so good. But in other remarks, Kerry has occasionally suggested that having blundered into this mess, we owe it to the Iraqis to "stay the course." He told CNN that he thought the administration's June 30 deadline for turning over authority was unrealistic, implying a longer US occupation. At times, Kerry has even suggested that for a time we might need to put in more troops to protect the ones already there. The trouble with this stance is that the Iraq occupation is turning out to be a...

Outsmarting Outsourcing

Last week I addressed the dilemma of job outsourcing. I promised some remedies in this column. In truth, the outsourcing of American jobs is one relatively small facet of the larger problem -- the steady erosion of jobs that pay middle-class wages. A global economy makes this challenge more difficult because it puts many American workers into direct competition with foreigners who are happy to work for less. Most of the solution to the outsourcing problem, however, is domestic. In recent decades, institutions that once produced a more equal society have been dismantled or weakened. These included government regulation of wages and working conditions, of industry practices, of a worker's right to choose a union (or not), as well as various social investments that once contributed good jobs. If we can rebuild these, the loss of some jobs overseas will continue to be a problem, but a manageable one. The majority of jobs in the economy today are in the service sector, and many of these...

Taking the Low Road

The people who insist that outsourcing is a trivial problem are wrong -- but so are those who tell you that there is an easy solution. The basic dilemma has several parts. First, the productivity of workers in poor countries is running far ahead of the wages they receive. That means Mexican autoworkers, unlike their American counterparts, can't afford to buy the cars they build. This reality is unprecedented. There has always been a lot of trade between rich countries and poor ones. But the ability of the world's lowest-paid workers to work with advanced production technology, the dropping of barriers to trade, and the integration of a global information economy are all relatively new. The analogy to trade within large countries is entirely false. Imagine that Massachusetts was paying an average wage of $15.00 an hour, and Connecticut was paying one dollar. An awful lot of jobs would eventually go to Connecticut. The US has always had regional disparities in pay levels -- that's why...

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