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

Exiting Iraq

On November 3, whether the president-elect is John Kerry or George W. Bush, popular pressure for the United States to withdraw from Iraq will increase dramatically. If it's Bush, much of the anger that coalesced behind Kerry will convert to a new antiwar movement of a breadth not seen since Vietnam. If it's Kerry, he could face a split in his own party. A great many Democrats, united behind the goal of ousting Bush, are too polite to say that they're not wild about Kerry's proposed Iraq policy, either. The antiwar sentiment among Democrats powering Howard Dean's candidacy was deep and real. That Dean couldn't convert it to a nomination was merely a personal failure. Since then the situation in Iraq has only worsened. And though Kerry, unlike Bush, has at least promised to get the troops out within four years, that will seem an awfully long time as GIs keep getting killed and Iraq moves no closer to stability. Indeed, as the months and years stretch on, the National Guard, reservists,...

Rethinking Free Trade

When Paul Samuelson, the dean of American economists, begins questioning the benefits of free trade, it is a bit like the pope having doubts about the virgin birth. But Samuelson, a Nobel laureate and the author of America's best-known economics textbook, has reopened a debate on the most settled issue in economics. He's done it with a stunner of an article in the Journal of Economic Perspectives that has created immense controversy -- and an opportunity for Americans to rethink previously unchallenged assumptions. Until now, any politician who questioned the universal benefits of free trade was ridiculed as a flat-earth type or a stooge for some declining industry or overpaid union whose work was best performed by lower-wage workers overseas so other U.S. consumers could benefit. This foreclosed a whole range of policy questions from debate. Ever since the economist David Ricardo offered the basic theory in 1817, economic scripture has taught that open trade, free of tariffs, quotas...

A Broken Promise to Children

One of the many lamentable things about this presidential campaign is how the real issues have been obscured in a sea of mud and deception. Exhibit A is education. President Bush campaigned as an education president and pledged to leave no child behind. His main legacy, however, is a most un-Republican brand of federal mandates on public schools, imposing high-stakes testing but without the funding to deliver the promise of better schools and teachers. Today happens to be the kickoff of the National Mobilization for Great Public Schools, a campaign organized by a coalition that includes Campaign for America's Future, ACORN, MoveOn, the National Education Association, some 40 groups in all. At last count, 4,000 teachers and parents had signed up to host house parties to organize an army of parents and others to press for adequate funding to back up the administration's rhetoric. Here are some appalling statistics, courtesy of the Mobilization and other research organizations: Headstart...

Prospects: George W. and Human Rights

George Washington set a standard that our current president disregards.

In his new book, Washington's Crossing , historian David Hackett Fischer recounts how humane treatment of prisoners was literally invented by George Washington on the battlefield in late 1776. Official British policy was to let field commanders decide whether to put captured enemy soldiers to the sword or to give quarter -- to keep captives alive in a barracks. Hence the expression give no quarter, which literally means to kill a captive on the spot. Washington wept, watching through a spyglass, as his troops, taken prisoner at the disastrous Battle of New York that November, were then slaughtered. After the first battle of Trenton, on December 26 and 27, where Washington's men captured several hundred Hessian mercenaries, Washington ordered his troops to treat the captives humanely. American soldiers risked their own lives, ferrying Hessian prisoners back across the Delaware. The Hessians were amazed to be treated with decency and even kindness, Fischer writes. American leaders...

Reframe Bush -- Fast

John Kerry is in trouble because the Bush campaign has seized control of what psychologists call the "frame" of this year's presidential contest. Bush, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and company have framed the election starkly: Bush will keep us safe in a time of terror. He will put money in people's pockets by cutting our taxes, and somehow that will also be good for the economy. Bush and Cheney have also framed Kerry. He is inconstant, an effete elitist who lives in a lah-de-dah neighborhood, speaks a foreign language, keeps changing his mind on everything from Vietnam to Iraq. This signals that Kerry is culturally different from ordinary folks (like Bush) and that if he wavers on everything else, you can't trust him to be resolute on terrorists. If this imagery hardens, Kerry is toast. Experts who study how public issues become framed in people's minds, like Susan Bales of the FrameWorks Institute, say that you can't change views merely with evidence. You have to change the frame. For...

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