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

Pride (In the Name of Markets):

I was recently invited to debate a leading conservative strategist before an audience of influential conservatives at a gala dinner. I suspect I'd been invited as the dinner. What's a liberal to say? My message is that conservatives have won most of the great battles of the past two decades but are now in danger of succumbing to hubris. They are overreaching, to their likely downfall. What did conservatives win? First, government -- the great engine of equality and citizenship -- is smaller, less prestigious, and less involved in the economy than before Ronald Reagan. The tax system is far less redistributive. Fewer industries are regulated. This change occurred not just in politics but in the culture. Fewer popular heroes today are leaders of government; more are entrepreneurs. In the 1960s, being a businessman was widely seen as remunerative but boring, if not selfish. By the '80s, entrepreneurship was broadly considered not just enriching but socially virtuous and even hip. The...

Comment: Good News

"T ell me some good news," said my old friend Mike Miller, an indefatigable progressive and source of wise counsel. We were having a late afternoon coffee, talking politics and commiserating about the general state of political disengagement. It was the day the story would break about the pre-September 11 intelligence warnings. Before I could collect my thoughts, Mike said, "Well, I'll give you three pieces of good news. First, the living-wage campaign. It's making a real difference, bubbling up from communities and students." Second, Mike went on, the challenge to the conventional wisdom about globalization is finally getting some traction. And third, the broad acceptance of gays and lesbians is a heartening form of social progress that nobody would have predicted two decades ago. Where did this come from? Mike wondered. Are these trends related? And how do we build on them? Good questions. I said I'd sleep on them. After a fitful night, I can offer some tentative answers. The...

401 KO:

R emember how Enron employees found their retirement accounts ruined because company policy blocked them from selling Enron stock while the stock was crashing? Congress is currently debating pension ''reform,'' but only of the most flagrant abuses. But there is a much bigger story here. It isn't just that some companies irresponsibly lock up workers' retirement assets in their own stock. Fewer and fewer Americans even have secure pensions. As recently as 1980, one American worker in two had "defined benefit" plans. All during your working life, the company built up a pension account on your behalf. At retirement, your pension, based on your pre-retirement income and years of service, was guaranteed as long as you lived. No longer. Only one employee in four now has such coverage, mostly in old line companies and unionized ones, and their share of the work force is dwindling. Instead, this is the age of 401(k)s. As we saw in the Enron case, these plans can be a big problem when pension...

The Ideological Impostor

Run left, govern right: the fraudulence of the Bush presidency

I n the 2000 election, the voters of this country could have been forgiven for sizing up George W. Bush as a cross between a moderate Republican and DLC Democrat. Here are some of the things he said while campaigning: In a stirring passage in his convention speech, Bush invoked single moms struggling to feed their kids and pay the rent. Immigrants starting a hard life in a new world. Children without fathers in neighborhoods where gangs seem like friendship. ... We are their country, too. ... When these problems aren't confronted, it builds a wall within our nation. On one side are wealth and technology, education and ambition. On the other side of the wall are poverty and prison, addiction and despair. And, my fellow Americans, we must tear down that wall. One could imagine Bobby Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson -- or even Al Gore on a good day -- uttering just those words. "To seniors in this country," Bush earnestly declared, "you earned your benefits, you made your plans, and President...

Got Plastic?

A mericans are a liberty-loving people. Our earliest national motto was Don't Tread on Me. Even after a sickening terrorist attack, we resist national identity cards. Yet we face an ever escalating assault on our privacy and liberty by both Big Brother and big business. And some of our most libertarian instincts turn our to be perverse in their effect. Business routinely misuses financial, medical, consumer, and credit records for marketing purposes. Our health records are supposedly personal and confidential. In theory, insurers get access to these records only to pay claims. But they are also useful commercial data. The Wall Street Journal reported on how marketers get medical records from insurance companies -- for example, data collected by urologists are turned into consumer sales pitches for adult diapers. The Bush administration recently scrapped medical privacy regulations issued in 2000 by the Clinton administration, as required by a 1996 privacy law. The original rules...

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