Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, as well as a distinguished senior fellow of the think tank Demos. He was a longtime columnist for Business Week and continues to write columns in The Boston Globe. He is the author of Obama's Challenge and other books.

Recent Articles

Tough Guys:

L ast week in this space, I wrote about the Administration's plans to "reform" welfare reform . The White House plans are so perverse that the subject deserves a deeper look. Thanks to the convergence of a strong economy and a flexible welfare program, a majority of people pushed off the rolls by the 1996 Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) law actually improved their lives in the workforce. But now the Bush Administration wants a new set of rigid formulas and work quotas. The post-1996 experience has provided a kind of natural experiment in what actually works to help the dependent poor escape the welfare life and become productive members of the workforce. States that have done the best, not just at cutting the rolls but at raising earnings of the poor, are those that have used welfare funds flexibly, on work and family supports and education. These states, including Oregon, Vermont, Minnesota, Washington, Wisconsin, cut across party. Their governors include Republicans,...

Comment: Republicans' Favorite Democrats

T he Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) was organized by southern governors, business Democrats, defense hawks, and social conservatives to push the party to the center. The theory was that this repositioning would win presidential elections (and also raise a ton of corporate money). Bill Clinton was taken as the DLC's vindication. But how is the DLC doing now that the Democrats are in opposition? Mostly, the DLC is up to its old habits of splitting the difference with a Republican administration. This is not exactly useful either in energizing the party base or in helping congressional Democrats resist the Bush onslaught. For instance, the 1996 welfare-reform program is now up for renewal. Welfare reform worked better than expected, partly because a strong economy provided plenty of jobs; the ensuing surplus could then be spent on job training, wage subsidies, and child care so that former welfare recipients could succeed in the workplace. The Republicans and their DLC allies are...

Welfare Deform:

Y ou would think that the conservatives and moderates who gave us welfare reform in 1996 would be absolutely crowing about their achievement: welfare rolls cut by more than half; many women not just quitting welfare but increasing their education and improving earnings and lives. You'd also think the Bush administration would want to build on this success, especially given its widely advertised commitment to "leave no child behind." But, no. Instead, the administration's new welfare reform bill is punitive and mean-spirited. The bill passed the Republican House May 16, and comes before the Senate Finance Committee this week. The administration, against the advice of most Republican governors, wants both to tighten the screws and limit the funds. Specifically, the bill requires most mothers receiving benefits to work a full forty-hours in paid employment. This requirement would make it impossible for most low-income single mothers to take classes or participate in training programs --...

Pride (In the Name of Markets):

I was recently invited to debate a leading conservative strategist before an audience of influential conservatives at a gala dinner. I suspect I'd been invited as the dinner. What's a liberal to say? My message is that conservatives have won most of the great battles of the past two decades but are now in danger of succumbing to hubris. They are overreaching, to their likely downfall. What did conservatives win? First, government -- the great engine of equality and citizenship -- is smaller, less prestigious, and less involved in the economy than before Ronald Reagan. The tax system is far less redistributive. Fewer industries are regulated. This change occurred not just in politics but in the culture. Fewer popular heroes today are leaders of government; more are entrepreneurs. In the 1960s, being a businessman was widely seen as remunerative but boring, if not selfish. By the '80s, entrepreneurship was broadly considered not just enriching but socially virtuous and even hip. The...

Comment: Good News

"T ell me some good news," said my old friend Mike Miller, an indefatigable progressive and source of wise counsel. We were having a late afternoon coffee, talking politics and commiserating about the general state of political disengagement. It was the day the story would break about the pre-September 11 intelligence warnings. Before I could collect my thoughts, Mike said, "Well, I'll give you three pieces of good news. First, the living-wage campaign. It's making a real difference, bubbling up from communities and students." Second, Mike went on, the challenge to the conventional wisdom about globalization is finally getting some traction. And third, the broad acceptance of gays and lesbians is a heartening form of social progress that nobody would have predicted two decades ago. Where did this come from? Mike wondered. Are these trends related? And how do we build on them? Good questions. I said I'd sleep on them. After a fitful night, I can offer some tentative answers. The...

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