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

Iraq's $200 Billion Election

The United States has spent nearly $200 billion dollars and lost more than 1,400 American lives so that Iraqis could attempt representative government. If, by some miracle, the result is a democratic and pro-western Iraq, President Bush can claim Mission Accomplished, for real. But a great deal must still break right before that banner can be unfolded. One risk is endless insurgency and prolonged occupation. Another is that Iraqis will indeed elect a popular government, but not one that we like, or that likes us. A recent New Yorker magazine profile of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi referred to him as Saddam Lite. This would not be the first time that the United States installed a friendly strongman with democratic trappings, only to have the enterprise backfire utterly. Compare the effort spent to bring the rudiments of democratic process to Iraq with the feeble state of American democracy at home. Last November, election lists were a mess in countless precincts, lines were intolerably...

It Can Happen Here

”How did you go bankrupt?” ”Two ways. Gradually, and then suddenly.” Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises Countries go broke gradually, by borrowing so much money that creditors lose confidence in their ability to pay the debt back. Then, they go broke suddenly as creditors stop lending. This has happened to more than a dozen third-world nations, who had the additional misfortune of having to borrow in dollars. As their own currency lost the confidence of world markets, they lost value against the dollar. This only increased their real debt burden. The optimists say, ''It can't happen here." First, we're the people who print dollars. So if the dollar is losing value, it just means the money that we owe the rest of the world is getting cheaper. Lucky us. Second, we enjoy a codependency with our creditors. For instance, China, which keeps lending us money to finance our deficits, may be accumulating dollar credits that are losing their real worth. But China needs us to keep absorbing...

Off the Wall

The Wall Street Journal editorial page is without peer when it comes to spin, but the editors hit a new low with Wednesday's lead editorial, headlined "All You Need to Know." The title refers to the latest Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report on the soaring deficit. The whole point of the report is to warn that that the "baseline" deficit, which appears to gradually decline between 2005 and 2016, is entirely misleading and understated because it leaves out crucial and costly items. Omitted are anticipated spending for Iraq and Afghanistan, the costs of making George W. Bush's tax cuts permanent (as both Bush and the Journal want), the real Medicare outlays once the drug benefit takes effect, and widely expected relief from the alternative minimum tax. Once these widely expected outlays are factored in, the real deficit does not dwindle to under a hundred billion dollars a year by 2011, as the misleading baseline figure forecasts, but soars to well over half a trillion a year, and...

Feeling Secure

Something almost unprecedented is happening to George W. Bush -- and on his big day. Leading Republican legislators are raining on his parade. One by one, key Republican congressional leaders are distancing themselves from Bush's Social Security privatization plan. On Tuesday, House Ways and Means chair Bill Thomas unkindly termed the Bush plan "a dead horse." Yesterday, Louisiana Representative Jim McCrery (who chairs the Social Security Subcommittee) sounded almost desperate, echoing Thomas's stunning statement that, in order to get "Democrats on board," Republicans would even consider raising the ceiling on the payroll tax. For the first time, a signature Bush initiative could go down, before it is even put into legislative form. And there is only one reason: Democrats are unified in their opposition and are hanging tough. Bush, after all, has legislative majorities in both Houses. But privatizing Social Security requires either raising taxes, or cutting benefits, or increasing the...

Minimum Wins

The Democratic National Committee will meet in February to choose a new party chairman. There is more jockeying than usual, with debates about whether the party should move left or right, hawk or dove, spiritual or secular, populist or what. Here's an instructive story you (and many national Democratic leaders) may have missed: President Bush carried Florida handily last November. But there was something else on the Florida ballot that got little national attention -- an initiative to raise the state minimum wage to $6.15 an hour. The initiative was put on the ballot by the community organizing group ACORN and a coalition of unions, MoveOn, and others with 975,000 signatures. The minimum wage initiative was opposed by nearly all Republicans and business groups. Not only did the initiative win by a stunning 72 to 28 percent; it won in every single Florida county, even rock-ribbed Bush territory. The Kerry campaign, hooked to a relentless message that the candidate had to identify with...

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