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

Kerry Picked a Winner

A lot of Democrats breathed a big sigh of relief yesterday when John Kerry named John Edwards as his running mate. At the most obvious level, Edwards brings two things that Kerry has sometimes lacked. He brings personal excitement plus a capacity to connect with non-rich voters on pocketbook issues. If Kerry sometimes seems patrician and aloof, Edwards has a common touch. More than any Democrat in the vice presidential field, Edwards is able to enlist culturally conservative, white, working class voters who may be gun-toting, abortion-hating, Arab-bashing, tub-thumping fundamentalists but who know that the economy is not delivering for them. At least some of these voters are willing to give some Democrats a hearing some of the time. That is how Edwards managed to win a Senate seat in the Bible Belt. It's unlikely that a Kerry-Edwards ticket will carry North Carolina, and it may not carry any of the South save perhaps Florida and Tennessee. But that same capacity to reach culturally...

Freeing Liberty

Thank God for the Supreme Court, or at least for the six members who ruled clearly that the president's claims of wartime powers do not trump the rule of law. The court has now exposed the authoritarian nonsense of the administration's claim that a detainee who has not been tried can be held captive as an indefinite menace, simply because the Pentagon asserts it. The entire basis of our system of law rests on the right of an accused person, no matter how heinous the alleged crime, to rebut those accusations before an impartial judge. Strip that away, and you have a dictatorship. It is shocking to have to say so, but it is also fortunate that an earlier generation of Americans had the foresight to commit the United States to international conventions on the treatment of prisoners. When the United States signs and ratifies a treaty, the provisions become a binding part of domestic law. When the United States signed the Third Geneva Convention, the understood purpose was to protect...

Kerry's Catch-22

Assume you are John Kerry. You've just been elected president in a close race. One House of Congress has gone narrowly Democratic, but not enough to give you a working legislative majority. The other has stayed narrowly Republican. By now, it has dawned on you that you lack either the votes in Congress or the fiscal resources to launch a bold domestic program. Not that there's nothing to do. You can restore the United States to a respected position in the world community. You can lead a far more effective program of domestic security against terrorism while respecting civil liberties. And you can return the courts to serious jurists who are not far-right ideologues. But the most successful - and disabling - part of George W. Bush's legacy is a structural budget deficit. Forget social needs. Seemingly, your most pressing imperative is fiscal damage control. And with a Democrat in the White House, the Wall Street worthies who cut George Bush a lot of slack on irresponsible deficits (...

America's Hidden Issue

America's hidden issue of poverty WBUR, Boston's fine public radio station, has been flogging this promotion: 16 million poor kids, through federal aid, get nutritious breakfasts and lunches throughout the school year. But now it's summer, and school's out. So send WBUR a hundred bucks, and $25 of it will go to a local food bank that feeds kids while the federal money shuts down. Does this strike you as just a little off? By all means, send WBUR a check. But shouldn't the news staff, as opposed to the development staff, be running with this story? What Scrooge forgot that kids eat in the summer? Where is the Bush administration on this? Why are there so many hungry children, anyway? By making this appeal part of its fund-raising pitch, complete with heart-rending interviews with adorable kids, WBUR subtly buys into the premise that these children require charity rather than decent public policy anchored in a robust politics. It adds to the depoliticizing of issues that should be part...

Prospects

Earth to Kerry ...

George W. Bush had a pretty good month. Iraq is still a mess but the Bush administration, with the improbable help of the United Nations, managed to confound the critics and install a new government in Baghdad. The UN Security Council blessed the venture, 15 to 0. The U.S. economy generated decent job-growth numbers for the third consecutive month. And Ronald Reagan's death projected a halo that Bush appropriated (for a week, anyway). All of these gains, of course, are fragile. The new Iraqi government is shaky. U.S. jobs may be growing but real wages are not. The most politically visible economic indicator is the price of gas at the pump. And the inevitable comparisons with the Gipper haven't necessarily been kind to Bush. Still, despite the president's low approval ratings, there is a nontrivial chance that Bush could pull out of his nosedive this summer. Iraq could remain tolerably stable until November. If the interim government doesn't collapse by election day, we will hear the...

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