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

Comment: Never Mind

O ne of the most astonishing recent events is the spectacle of Bill Richardson, formerly Bill Clinton's ambassador to the United Nations, literally mediating between the Bush administration and the North Koreans. Even weirder is how this anomalous piece of freelancing came about. The North Koreans had enjoyed a constructive relationship with Richardson, who was recently elected governor of New Mexico. They put out informal feelers, and Richardson got a green light from Colin Powell to proceed with back-channel talks. Imagine the reaction of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and the administration's other ultras. You can also imagine the right's hoots of derision if a Democratic president had to rely on a Republican governor spontaneously acting to save the president from the folly of his own policy. Richardson, please recall, was a leading player in an administration whose Korea policy Bush has sought to disavow and reverse. By carelessly including North Korea in a spurious "axis of evil"...

Class Act

Now that President Bush has a fight on his hands over his proposed tax and budget program, the usual suspects are insisting that anyone who challenges these plans is promoting class warfare. Defenders of progressive taxation stand accused of resenting the rich, who presumably achieved their wealth through good, old-fashioned hard work. Moreover, the entrepreneurial class generates the jobs for the rest of us. So why kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, even if the goose sometimes seems overfat? In addition, tax-the-rich is said to be bad politics. Conservative essayist David Brooks elegantly laid out the argument in last Sunday's New York Times (though I am suspicious of conservatives giving liberals tactical advice.) First, Brooks wrote, most people "vote their aspirations" rather than their current economic self interest. The fellow making $30,000 a year hopes that some day he will be a millionaire, too. He doesn't like the idea of paying taxes on his imaginary millions...

Bogus Stimulus

If ever there were a president who needed a war, it is George W. Bush. And if ever an opposition party needed to start behaving like an opposition, it is the Democrats. The economy is faltering; Bush's foreign policy is a mess; his domestic program is aimed more at rewarding favored interest groups than solving national problems. If properly challenged, Bush's program would be monumentally unpopular. The centerpiece of the Bush economic program is permanent repeal of the tax on corporate dividends, falsely advertised as an economic "stimulus." The Bush plan would reduce revenues by $670 billion over 10 years, about half just from repeal of the dividend tax. The proposal is bad economics and irresponsible budget policy. Two-thirds of the benefit would go to the wealthiest 5 percent. About half of all Americans have some money in the stock market, but most small investors have their money in IRAs, Keoghs, and 401(k) plans, which are already tax exempt. Bush is betting that small...

Ball Drop

Happy New Year, George W. Bush. You enjoyed an Election Day blowout. Your popularity ratings are holding up nicely. But 2003 may not be as happy a year for you as 2002. For starters, there's the economy. It looks like the new year will bring a "jobless recovery," if not a recession. Consumer spending, which has been keeping the economy out of recession, is faltering. Retailers had their worst Christmas in more than a decade. Housing prices are on the decline. Unemployment is up. The stock market can't gain any traction. The fallout from the market collapse has been partly contained because low interest rates and cheap home equity loans kept personal consumption humming through most of 2002. But the Federal Reserve will not likely lower rates further, and consumers are turning jittery. State and local governments are in fiscal free fall. Their increased taxes and reduced services will also be a drag on the economy. The administration seems oblivious. The reason may be that only three...

Comment: Having It Both Ways on Race

T he Trent Lott affair reminds us of the American capacity for mass denial, particularly where race is concerned. Republican racism, certainly, is an open secret. It isn't limited to good-old-boy senators from Mississippi or South Carolina who are relics from a broadly discredited past. Ever since Lyndon Johnson declared, "We shall overcome," and Richard Nixon countered with his southern strategy, the Republican grand electoral design has been based on locking up the white South while playing to the white backlash in the North. Often the appeals to race are tacit, sometimes they are crude; but the stance is unmistakable to anyone who bothered to notice. But few did, until Lott blurted out his nostalgia for segregation. So powerful is the mass denial that it took several days before his remarks even became a story. It was in the 2002 election, after all, that a popular Democratic governor in Georgia was ousted by the voters, in large part because he spent some of his political capital...

Pages