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 Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism? In addition to writing for the Prospect, he writes for The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, and the New York Review of Books. 

Follow Bob at his site, robertkuttner.com, and on Twitter. 

Recent Articles

A Moderate Defection

Republicans in Congress this week suffered an implosion unprecedented in the Bush era, as moderates in both Houses rebelled against a budget measure in which the leadership tried to combine cuts in programs for the working poor with new tax cuts for the rich. The collapse reflected several factors, including President Bush's deepening unpopularity, the Republicans' loss of two close governors' races last Tuesday, the sidelining of Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and worries about the 2006 election. According to the latest Wall Street Journal poll, by a margin of 48 to 37 percent, voters say Democrats should take control of Congress next year. This is the widest margin for either party since the Journal started asking the question in 1996. The collapse this week in Congress occurred on multiple fronts, and revealed multiple fault lines. In the House, more than 20 Republican moderates, long abused by DeLay's hardball tactics, openly rebelled against the proposed budget. They declared that...

A Tax Surprise

After his re-election, President Bush set two top domestic priorities: privatization of Social Security, and “reform” of the tax system. Privatization ran into a wall of opposition once the public grasped that the price would be a big cut in guaranteed retirement checks. On Tuesday, Bush's blue-ribbon commission on tax reform issued its recommendations, and they are hitting with a similar, resounding thud. The right wanted a flat tax, a consumption tax, or a national sales or value-added tax in place of the progressive income tax. Not only did the commission fail to support any of these, but it took on at least one sacred cow -- capping the mortgage interest deduction -- that would raise taxes on the upper middle class. Taxing consumption rather than income is a practical impossibility because of insurmountable fiscal and political problems of Bush's own making. A consumption tax would represent a huge windfall to the wealthiest, the only Americans who save most of their incomes. But...

Bush Just Doesn't Learn

With the indictment of Lewis Libby and possible indictment of Karl Rove, President Bush faces a fateful choice. Bush can adopt a bunker mentality and try to appease his base of social ultra-conservatives and military hawks, who have brought him such grief. Or he can reach out to the broad mainstream of American politics, as he pretended to do when he ran as a “uniter, not a divider” in 2000. Who would have predicted that the Bush machine would implode so spectacularly, on so many fronts simultaneously? It is worth pausing a moment to take stock of it all: The vice president's chief aide is indicted on perjury and obstruction charges that potentially implicate Dick Cheney himself, since Cheney personally told Libby of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson's position. Whether or not an indictment of Karl Rove follows, this investigation puts the dubious origins of the war back in the public spotlight, and will inexorably lead to even more damning evidence that the case for taking America to...

Saving General Motors

The United Auto Workers union (UAW) has agreed to save General Motors over a billion dollars a year in health insurance costs. This is a disguised pay-cut, since workers will now pay more out of pocket for their healthcare. The union agreed to this desperation deal to help keep GM alive. The once-dominant auto-maker posted a record $1.1 billion loss in the third quarter; and its former parts division, Delphi, with 34,000 union jobs, has just gone into bankruptcy. If and when it emerges, Delphi's $26-an-hour workers will be cut to something like $12. That gets your attention. The union leadership was so eager to help GM survive that the UAW filed an unusual suit intended to block its own union retirees from challenging the negotiated health-benefit cuts. Now Ford has just reported a $284 million third-quarter loss, and wants the same kind of deal the UAW gave GM. Even with these concessions, the industry that once was the core of America's blue-collar middle class is continuing its...

Dial M For Maddening

Are you one of those people who loves voice-recognition software -- a machine posing as a virtual person -- when you are trying to change a flight, straighten out a bill, or get your phone line fixed? American business is training consumers to follow this routine -- and like it. If anybody should know how to get the technology and the customer psychology right, it's the phone company. ''Voice recognition does work," says Jim Smith, of Verizon's media-relations office. Smith cites Verizon's customer focus groups. These show that consumers are initially skeptical, he says, ''because they're afraid they're going to screw it up." But once they get used to it, Smith explains, people like it because voice software is faster and more efficient than waiting for an operator. Since 1999, Verizon has gradually expanded voice recognition from directory assistance to billing inquiries to repair. Well, not this consumer. The first difficulty is that if your problem is the least bit complex -- let's...

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