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

The Patchwork Monster

At dinner, two sets of parents of college seniors are discussing their dreams for their soon-to-be newly minted graduates. Doctor? Lawyer? Scientist? Entrepreneur? ''I just hope she gets a job with health insurance," says one mom, breaking the spell. ''The insurance cuts off the day they graduate." A dad chimes in: ''COBRA coverage costs over $400 a month." (COBRA is an acronym for a consolidated budget act that allows you to keep your coverage by paying the premium costs out of pocket. It is well named.) In a country with a rational system of health insurance, your coverage would not be subject to the quirks of when you graduated college, where you worked, or whether you had been sick earlier in your life. But the American system is a patchwork mess of coverage, noncoverage, and inadequate coverage, slightly tempered by well-intentioned efforts to fill in the cracks, which only add to the fragmentation and cost. Meanwhile, George W. Bush's budget proposes to cut some $45 billion out...

Save Our Security

AARP has just proposed closing part of the long-term Social Security shortfall by raising the cap on income subject to the Social Security tax from its present ceiling of $90,000 to $140,000. In other circumstances, this might be a good idea. In the present political context, it's just not smart politics. AARP, which is adamantly opposed to privatization, has been convinced by its pollsters that "you can't beat something with nothing." But there's an even truer rule of politics, namely: When your opponent is doing himself in, just get out of the way. George W. Bush's privatization plan is falling of its own weight. This is not the time to complicate things. Moreover, a big part of the opposition campaign has been based on debunking the Bush claim that the system is in crisis. Polls suggest that Bush is not making much headway with the crisis theme. By proposing this large and visible a tax increase, AARP just lends credence to the crisis-mongering. Indeed, according to AARP's...

Being Howard Dean

Howard Dean seems assured of becoming the Democratic party chairman when the Democratic National Committee votes Feb. 12. Is this a good or bad thing for the Democrats? Conservative Democrats think it's a disaster. One Republican operative was quoted, (inevitably) "It's a scream!" But there's a lot more to Dean than that one awful moment in Iowa, and the real story is rich and complicated. Dean surprised Washington insiders showing that he had a great deal of early support among state party chairs. These people are not diehard lefties or fools. They want to win. Dean, true to his reputation as an organizer, relentlessly worked the phones and ended up impressing many party leaders who hadn't really known him but who share his perspective that the party must be rebuilt on the kind of grass-roots energy Dean showed while his presidential star was rising. Also, Dean really didn't have serious competition. Two kinds of people typically become Democratic Party chairs -- tactical operatives...

Iraq's $200 Billion Election

The United States has spent nearly $200 billion dollars and lost more than 1,400 American lives so that Iraqis could attempt representative government. If, by some miracle, the result is a democratic and pro-western Iraq, President Bush can claim Mission Accomplished, for real. But a great deal must still break right before that banner can be unfolded. One risk is endless insurgency and prolonged occupation. Another is that Iraqis will indeed elect a popular government, but not one that we like, or that likes us. A recent New Yorker magazine profile of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi referred to him as Saddam Lite. This would not be the first time that the United States installed a friendly strongman with democratic trappings, only to have the enterprise backfire utterly. Compare the effort spent to bring the rudiments of democratic process to Iraq with the feeble state of American democracy at home. Last November, election lists were a mess in countless precincts, lines were intolerably...

It Can Happen Here

”How did you go bankrupt?” ”Two ways. Gradually, and then suddenly.” Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises Countries go broke gradually, by borrowing so much money that creditors lose confidence in their ability to pay the debt back. Then, they go broke suddenly as creditors stop lending. This has happened to more than a dozen third-world nations, who had the additional misfortune of having to borrow in dollars. As their own currency lost the confidence of world markets, they lost value against the dollar. This only increased their real debt burden. The optimists say, ''It can't happen here." First, we're the people who print dollars. So if the dollar is losing value, it just means the money that we owe the rest of the world is getting cheaper. Lucky us. Second, we enjoy a codependency with our creditors. For instance, China, which keeps lending us money to finance our deficits, may be accumulating dollar credits that are losing their real worth. But China needs us to keep absorbing...

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