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

Owning Up

Is the housing market experiencing a dangerous price bubble, one destined to pop, like the late stock-market collapse? Housing prices have been rising faster than incomes since 2000, and the ratio of housing costs to incomes is now the highest since the Depression. To compensate, homebuyers are borrowing more than ever, before homeownership gets away from them altogether. On average, homeowners have less equity and more debt than in 2000. And more buyers are taking bigger risks, using adjustable rate and interest-only mortgages, which leaves them little wiggle room as interest rates rise or housing values decline. Nationally, housing prices have gone up 15 percent in the past year, the biggest jump since the hyper-inflationary year 1980. In some sub-markets, such as parts of coastal Florida, they've risen as much as 40 percent. The rising percentage of investor-speculators buying homes -- over 20 percent according to the National Association of Realtors -- is also inflating the bubble...

Raw Deal

The Washington press loves the myth that polarization is what ails American politics and that bipartisan moderation will save the day. The high drama of the "nuclear option" averted by brave moderates fits the script perfectly. Republican Senate leader Bill Frist, wanting court nominees to sail through Senate confirmation on a simple majority vote, threatened to scrap the filibuster by rigging the Senate rules. Just hours before this nuclear option was to be exercised, 14 moderates of both parties, after marathon negotiations, fashioned a compromise in which three controversial nominees get an immediate floor vote, and the filibuster is preserved, sort of. Initial press accounts offered hosannas to moderation. Several reports painted Frist as isolated and humiliated, and right-wing groups furious. The only problem is that this happy spin is almost totally wrong. Consider what actually happened. By threatening what amounted to a parliamentary coup d'etat, Frist got nearly everything he...

Starving for Your Job

The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century by Thomas L. Friedman ( Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 496 pages, $27.50 ) I opened Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat expecting another paean to globalization, and though it surely is that, this book is also a well-reported, original, and nuanced discussion that every liberal needs to read, as much for its instructive omissions as for it insights and caveats. (Note to Farrar, Straus and Giroux marketing department: Do not quote that sentence except in its entirety.) Friedman compellingly demonstrates why several trends that American progressives generally deplore are here to stay, and why those trends are also sources of faster economic growth for the world as a whole. Any economist who contends, based on conventional employment statistics, that outsourcing is no big deal is simply missing an epochal change. The test isn't how many jobs are being lost but where and how new economic activity is being created. In a major shift...

The Death and Life of American Liberalism

“I can't believe I'm losing to this guy.” -- Jon Lovitz playing Michael Dukakis, Saturday Night Live, October 1988 Why are we losing to these guys? On nearly every major issue, public-opinion polls show that the Bush administration and the Republican Congress are well to the right of the country. Yet George W. Bush got himself re-elected, with an enlarged majority in both chambers of Congress. Let's cut to the chase. The big reason is that the right is a movement, 30 years in the making. And a movement culture is a habitat that allows grass-roots activists, party professionals, and conviction politicians to function strategically as a smooth machine joined by a common ideology. “I knocked on a lot of doors in 2004,” says Steve Rosenthal, who headed America Coming Together, the largest liberal voter-mobilization group. “If I heard it once, I heard it a thousand times: ‘You may not agree with George Bush, but you know where he stands.'” Conviction evidently trumps vacillation, even when...

A New Model for Elder Care

By the time my mother turned 90, she had outlived the several friends and neighbors who lived in the Brookline apartment building where she'd spent the past 25 years. It was getting lonely and a bit risky. She and I began touring assisted-living complexes, whose apartments for the most part were small and pricey. ''This is for old people," my mother said. Then we stumbled on something new and wonderful -- virtual assisted living. The idea is that you stay in your own apartment, and any service you need comes to you, a la carte, as well as a rich program of social and cultural activities. As it turns out, there is exactly one such full-service program in the entire country, Beacon Hill Village, in Boston, serving residents of Beacon Hill, the Back Bay, and the West End since 2002. According to Judy Willett, the dynamo who directs the program, Beacon Hill Village was organized by local residents who wanted to stay in their homes rather than moving into retirement communities as they...

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