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

The Battle Begins

Social Security is the most successful program that tangibly delivers on the core philosophy of the Democratic Party -- namely, that ordinary people depend on government for economic security that markets can't provide. Unlike recent token programs, Social Security delivers serious money, to the middle class and the working poor alike. Without Social Security, a third of America's seniors would be destitute. Despite its broad popularity, however, Social Security could succumb to a Republican privatization scheme as early as April. Yet this could also be the comeback battle in which Democrats recover both their souls and their political energy. They could hand George W. Bush a rare, humiliating defeat that breaks his winning streak and exposes Republican divisions. Bush wants to divert part of the Social Security payroll tax to a new system of private retirement accounts. Privatization would be partial and optional. Individuals could still stick with traditional Social Security for all...

Overreaching For It

Presidents get into trouble in their second terms, especially when they interpret reelection as a huge mandate. The details differ, but most of them involve overreaching. Franklin Roosevelt was overwhelmingly reelected in 1936, and almost immediately overreached in his scheme to pack the Supreme Court. Ronald Reagan won reelection by a landslide in 1984, but found that his tax cuts were creating serious deficit problems, bogged down in the Iran-Contra scandal, and ended losing the Senate in 1986. And Bill Clinton, reelected in 1996, imagined that he could treat the Oval Office as a boudoir. What of George W. Bush? His bungling of the nomination of Bernard Kerik to head the Homeland Security Department -- there was much more than a nanny scandal that would have led to a messy confirmation battle -- is pure second-term hubris. And there is a lot more to come. In the wake of John Kerry's defeat -- and I mean wake in both senses -- Democrats have been going through Elizabeth Kubler-Ross'...

License and Registration

As a card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union, I'd like to have one more card in my wallet. The card I want, contrary to the views of most civil liberties activists, is a national ID card. Privacy advocates have always resisted this idea, for fear of government snooping on citizens. But that cat is out of the bag. Nearly all of us have driver's licenses, Social Security cards, passports. And corporations, credit agencies, and HMOs keep dossiers, too -- often more extensive than what government maintains. For civil libertarians, the real issue is not whether government and business collect databases on citizens, but whether there are adequate protections against abuses. Those protections have come under particular assault in the era of George W. Bush and the USA Patriot Act. But we will not solve the privacy problem by pretending that we are back in a pre-computer era. For that matter, Hitler did not need computers to abuse citizens. There are several good reasons to...

The Amazing Shrinking Dollar

I recently returned from Europe, where the dollar just hit a new low against the euro. The European Union's new common currency, widely disparaged in Washington as a bizarre idea that would never win acceptance, was worth about 90 cents in 2002. Now it costs you $1.33 and is rising. The euro has emerged as a worldwide rival to the greenback. It makes the United States a bargain basement for visiting Europeans, while Europe is staggeringly expensive for Americans. What ails the dollar? Two things. Our trade deficit grows bigger every year, as does our budget deficit. Both deficits require foreigners to supply capital. The more capital they have to supply, the more nervous they get about the dollar. Lately, private foreign investments in U.S. stocks and bonds have both declined, leaving the United States precariously dependent on two foreign central banks -- China and Japan -- to finance its twin deficits. The U.S. trade deficit is now close to 6 percent a year and rising. In theory, a...

Ich Bin Ein Negotiator

BERLIN -- Europe's initiative to prevent a military confrontation between the United States and Iran represents a new coming of age in world affairs for a Europe often described as an economic giant but a geo-political dwarf. Nowhere is this more true than than in Germany. The European initiative, led by Germany, France, and Britain, would give Iran major economic benefits in exchange for the Iranians giving up their aspirations to become a nuclear power. Specifically, Tehran would get membership in the World Trade Organization, trade deals, security guarantees, and nuclear fuel for peaceful uses such as nuclear power generation. A preliminary agreement in mid-November produced an Iranian commitment to suspend work on uranium enrichment, but a follow-up agreement is still to be negotiated, and nobody here expects a final deal until after the Iranian presidential election next year, since none of the candidates can afford politically to appear weak. Any deal would need U.S. approval,...

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