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

Digging Out

Thanks to George W. Bush's tax cuts, the federal government faces a long-term fiscal crisis. An intended side effect is to undercut social investment of the sort that has bonded two generations of voters since Franklin Roosevelt to the Democratic Party. The current year's deficit is projected at $440 billion. If elected, John Kerry will need to find some $300 billion a year just to get the budget into decent fiscal shape -- and then even more money if he hopes to deliver on his promises to broaden health care coverage. Where will the money come from? Kerry has said he will restore pre-Bush tax rates on people making more than $200,000 a year. That's a good start, but it would raise well under $100 billion a year, not enough to both balance the budget and finance the new program initiatives. Because of the Bush tax cuts, federal revenue as a share of the total economy is now back down to the levels of the 1950s. And in the 1950s, there was no Medicare, and Social Security was a much...

Uphill Battle

It would be hard to imagine a better convention week for the Democrats. Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Max Cleland, among others, rose to genuine eloquence, offering an admirable narrative of John Kerry's own story, setting the stage for last night. What's more, the convention surely set a Democratic record for self-restraint. Even the grassroots activists to Kerry's left, who sponsored their own three-day "Take Back America" event, vowed to work to get the Democratic ticket elected and then work even harder to rebuild grass-roots institutions. Democrats were also heartened by Bush's continuing slide. Every second-term election is a referendum on the sitting president, and this president is currently approved by well under half the electorate. No incumbent president has been reelected in November with those July poll numbers. But despite the Democrats' unity and jubilation this week, Kerry must still be rated the underdog. Here are several reasons why: Making the Sale. After all that...

Saving Grace

John Kerry would be only the second American president of the Roman Catholic faith. The first, of course, was John F. Kennedy. Kennedy's election was a moment of great celebration among American Catholics and among the Church hierarchy -- Boston's Cardinal Richard Cushing was particularly close to the Kennedy family -- even though Kennedy had made it clear on the campaign trail, rebutting an anti-Catholic hate campaign, that he would not be taking policy instructions from the Vatican. In 1960, this was a major issue, and many of Kennedy's opponents contended that he'd be a tool of the pope. Today, however, the Catholic Church hierarchy is coolly distant to Kerry, who is, if anything, a more strictly observant Catholic than Kennedy was. Today's Church leaders are actually demanding what Kennedy insisted was a slander -- that an American president should take policy direction from the Vatican. But Kerry has also made clear, rather more politely than Kennedy did, that he will not be an...

Three Nightmares

America could well face a constitutional crisis this November over two back-to-back, discredited presidential elections. Nightmare No. 1: Florida Again We've already seen another round of crude efforts to purge the Florida rolls of felons, some of whom aren't felons at all. We will see a lot of intimidation of African-American Florida voters, too. Almost every Democratic operative I speak to takes it for granted that the Bushies, led in this case by Governor Jeb, will try to "steal" Florida. But that's only the first of the election nightmares. Nightmare No. 2: Touchscreen Hell Given the refusal of Republicans to allow federal legislation requiring verifiable paper trails for electronic voting devices that are still far too buggy, it's a near certainty that some will malfunction -- and that there will be no recourse. Moreover, a lot of older and less well-educated people have trouble comprehending touchscreens. It's also possible that there could be some deliberate tampering. But even...

Ah, Unity

The 2004 Democratic convention is a study in both discipline and in self-discipline. That makes it a refreshing rarity. Not only does the official program offer both consistency of message and a great variety of voices and styles; the restive Democratic base has been admirably, almost eerily, self-restrained. Advocates of universal health care may wish that John Kerry had embraced a single-payer plan, and peace activists may wish that he had renounced his vote for the Iraq War. But this year, everybody here is a realist, and there is no sniping at the nominee. The stakes are just too high. This self-restraint was not the case in such years as 1948, 1968, 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, or 2000 -- and the party often paid the price. Polls suggest that most individual delegates to this convention are to the left of Kerry on the issues. But the delegates, and even most of the cause activists in town, are adopting a both/and strategy: First, let's get the ticket elected; then, let's keep on...

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