Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, a professor at Brandeis University's Heller School, and 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

Comment: Useless Airways

T he latest corporation to file for bankruptcy is not another fraudulent telecom, but US Airways. The airlines were among the sectors hardest hit by September 11. And with its concentration in the Northeast, US Airways was among the hardest hit of all. But it would be a mistake to blame the airlines' woes on the terrorist attacks. Airlines and the telecoms have one big thing in common: Both are casualties of deregulation. As Paul Starr points out in " The Great Telecom Implosion ," networked industries such as telephone companies have trouble competing in a wide-open market. One company is pretty much like another; new competitors tend to build a lot of excess capacity in order to grab market share, and pretty soon nobody is making a living. Airlines are a similar story. Since they were deregulated in 1978, U.S. airlines as a whole have lost several billions of dollars. What's a little hard to grasp is that deregulation could be bad for shareholders, workers and consumers alike -- and...

At Economic Summit, It's All for Show

B ad timing is only one of several problems afflicting George W. Bush's Waco Economic Summit. The economy is just not cooperating with his upbeat message. A second major industry, airlines, is now joining the telecommunications collapse as evidence that the economy faces more than a crisis of investor confidence. The Federal Reserve has been keeping the economy afloat with interest rate cuts, but despite economic weakness, it declined yesterday to cut rates further. Last week, the Commerce Department quietly and sheepishly released revised statistics showing that the recession of 2001 was more serious and prolonged than originally thought. The Waco event needs to be understood mainly as theater. The same cynical producers who recruited African-American tokens to integrate the 2000 Republican National Convention unearthed a handful of ''ordinary'' Americans to come to Waco mainly for their value as props. But, for the most part, Bush's summiteers are the usual suspects who have brought...

Double Standard on Bankruptcy

W ith all the corporate and accounting scandals, you may have noticed that Congress is also working on bankruptcy reform legislation. A bill nearly passed last week and will probably be approved when Congress returns in September. However, this is precisely the wrong kind of reform. It is a measure long sought by the banking industry to make it easier to squeeze money from ordinary individuals who declare bankruptcy after facing personal hard times or being overwhelmed by debt. Often these are individuals facing catastrophic illnesses or personal financial reverses. Sometimes they are people who ran up too much consumer debt, but in these buying binges the credit card companies are willing coconspirators. They foist credit cards on college kids with no visible means of support save parents. They encourage people to run up debts with multiple cards. Why? In a low-interest-rate environment, lenders love those 20 percent, Mafia-style interest rates that many consumers foolishly pay, and...

Wanted: Brave Democrats

V ermont Gov. Howard Dean, recently profiled in these pages, committed a brave political act the other day. He called for repeal of George W. Bush's $1.35 trillion tax cut. What makes the act so brave is not that repealing the tax cut is an outlandish idea, or even that it is unpopular. What makes Dean's call courageous is that very few other leading Democrats have taken this stand. Dean made the proposal as a way to pay for national health insurance, but there are lots of other good rationales for the repeal. Let's put this in some perspective. Bush's tax cut was enacted before the stock-market bust, before the recession, before September 11, when it appeared that the government faced a fiscal future of indefinite surpluses. Now there is a real risk of a double-dip recession. Deficits loom for decades. And every domestic program that Democrats favor is held by the White House to be unaffordable -- as if the tax cut had nothing to do with the huge hole in the budget. Meanwhile, the...

The Moral Equivalent of War Production

R estoration of robust growth is the paramount challenge facing the nation, the most significant issue of the 1992 election, and the first task that will face a new administration. Indeed, all other important public questions are being held hostage to a sick economy that depresses aspiration, increases unemployment, de pletes revenue, and makes public remediation seem unaffordable. Many serious commentators have lately concluded that nothing can be done to cure the depressed economy, save to depress it further via budget balance and wait for private confidence to return. The discussion bears an uncanny similarity to that of the late 1930s, when the economics journals were filled with gloomy assessments of something called "mature capitalism." After a full decade of depression, many economists concluded that 12 percent unemployment, static living standards, and 1 or 2 percent annual growth were the best a mature market economy could do. An abrupt event on nobody's economic radar screen...

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