Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, a professor at Brandeis University's Heller School, and a distinguished senior fellow of the think tank Demos. He was a longtime columnist for Business Week and continues to write columns in The Boston Globe. He is the author of Obama's Challenge and other books.

Recent Articles

Running Scared

T he Republicans and the Bush administration may have painted themselves into a serious political corner on the hot-button issue of Social Security. Last December a Social Security Commission appointed by the president reported three possible plans to privatize part of Social Security accounts. At the time the commission was appointed, conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute had persuaded leading Republicans that voters liked the idea of "choice" in their retirement planning and that private accounts invested in stocks had great appeal with younger voters. But after a swooning stock market and the Enron scandal, Republican congressmen who have to run in swing districts know better. The GOP's rank and file is refusing to walk this plank. The other day, U.S. Representative Clay Shaw of Florida, a leading advocate of Social Security privatization, denied that he supports Social Security privatization. The House leadership has even refused to put the...

Comment: Philanthropy and Movements

R ecently I was invited to be the token liberal at a major national conference of conservative foundations. The invitation was to debate Bill Kristol, The Weekly Standard editor, TV pundit, and conservative grand strategist, as the after-dinner entertainment. Presumably, conservative donors wished to view the face of the enemy, close up. The better I did, the deeper they would dig into their ample pockets. The dinner was held at one of New York's most elegant hotels, the Pierre. The sponsors put me up at the nearby Hotel Roosevelt, a spartan midtown hostelry one cut above fleabag. I gamely accepted this lesser billeting not as demeaning confirmation of the right's two-class vision for society, but as recognition of my esteem for FDR. But I digress. The debate itself was good fun, but the real treat was the before-dinner event: a panel discussion of four presidents of major right-wing research factories, titled, "Philanthropy, Think Tanks, and the Importance of Ideas." The heads of the...

Reforming Welfare Reform:

T he Senate will soon vote on the extension of the welfare reform program first passed in 1996. Many people have gotten off the welfare rolls and into paid work, thanks to a high employment economy and decent state work-support programs made possible by the temporary surplus of state welfare funds. Even with this success, millions of women and their children have fallen through the cracks. And all that's about to change for the worse. The surpluses are gone, the jobs are dwindling, and now the Bush administration wants to tighten the screws on the poor. The House has already passed legislation requiring states to spend more money on marriage promotion, and reducing the ability of women forced off welfare to combine work and education. The White House also wants to push even more women with even younger children into paid employment, without any more spending on child care. On June 20, The Prospect will be publishing a special supplement on the welfare experience since 1996 -- the...

From Pack Rat to Tosser:

W hen it comes to clutter, there are two kinds of people in the world: pack rats and tossers. I'm a pack rat. I have clip files dating back to the late 1960s, sorted by subject, not to mention college term papers, Watergate documents, and raw research for books I've written. This is sort of defensible, since I'm a journalist and I need reference materials. I don't quite trust the Internet's "bookmarks." There's nothing quite so satisfying as a hard-copy report or congressional hearing that you can mark up, or even yellowing newspaper clips ("but from 1975?" my wife wonders). I'm also a pack rat about stuff unrelated to my trade -- treasures from my kids, parents, and grandparents; files of old letters; journals; skits from college reunions; memorabilia of trips. I'm either sentimental or narcissistic or both. But I hadn't realized quite how extreme a pack rat I was until the moment came to sell the family house. After 23 years in the near suburbs, it's time to move into town. That...

Tough Guys:

L ast week in this space, I wrote about the Administration's plans to "reform" welfare reform . The White House plans are so perverse that the subject deserves a deeper look. Thanks to the convergence of a strong economy and a flexible welfare program, a majority of people pushed off the rolls by the 1996 Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) law actually improved their lives in the workforce. But now the Bush Administration wants a new set of rigid formulas and work quotas. The post-1996 experience has provided a kind of natural experiment in what actually works to help the dependent poor escape the welfare life and become productive members of the workforce. States that have done the best, not just at cutting the rolls but at raising earnings of the poor, are those that have used welfare funds flexibly, on work and family supports and education. These states, including Oregon, Vermont, Minnesota, Washington, Wisconsin, cut across party. Their governors include Republicans,...

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