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

Fighting Dirty

The Bush campaign has a problem. Almost any unflattering issue they bring up about John Kerry tends to reflect worse on President Bush. One thinks of the old proverb, "Never mention a rope in the house of a man who was hanged." On Monday, speaking at a fund-raiser in Houston, the President tried out what will doubtless be a Republican mantra: "Senator Kerry voted for the Patriot Act, for Nafta, for No Child Left Behind, and for the use of force in Iraq. Now he opposes the Patriot Act, Nafta, the No Child Left Behind Act, and the liberation of Iraq. My opponent clearly has strong convictions - they just don't last very long." There are two very persuasive rejoinders. For starters, most senators and congressmen also voted for No Child Left Behind and for force in Iraq, but quickly turned into critics because Bush pulled a bait-and- switch. Similarly, most legislators were stampeded into supporting the so-called Patriot Act, which increases permissible spying on Americans, and have...

Queer and Present Danger?

On May 17, gays and lesbians in Massachusetts will gain the right to marry, thanks to a 4-3 ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. In July, the Democratic presidential nominee, presumably John Kerry of Massachusetts, will triumphantly accept his party's nomination, also in Massachusetts. Seemingly, it would be hard to contrive a better symbol of the Republican claim that Massachusetts, and its favorite son, are outside the national mainstream. Kerry, traversing a political minefield, says he is for civil unions but not gay marriage. The Massachusetts political establishment, meanwhile, is in an uproar, with the Democratic House speaker and the Republican governor promoting a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Because the amendment process in Massachusetts takes a minimum of two years, thousands of gay and lesbian couples could be married in 2004 and ordered unmarried in 2006. More immediately, the Democratic National Convention could display a sideshow, with...

Prospects

Money corrodes democracy in multiple ways. It influences who gets into politics. It allows the wealthy to speak with a louder voice. It compels candidates to spend inordinate time cultivating donors rather than speaking to voters. The money-and-politics dilemma has a partisan aspect as well as a civic one, because the people with the most money are usually conservatives. So liberals either remain purist and not financially competitive or go for the big money and risk selling their souls (and alienating their voting base). Since the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision, the Supreme Court has defined campaign contributions as tantamount to free speech. Reformers have tried to use public financing to work around that judicial doctrine. But so much private money is available, especially to Republicans, that President Bush decided to forgo public funding for his re-election campaign in favor of unlimited private money. John Kerry, who will raise far less than Bush, felt compelled to follow suit...

Border Patrol

John Kerry has declared war against the corporate "Benedict Arnolds" who ship American jobs overseas. This is a welcome, if slightly overheated, acknowledgement that outsourcing of jobs is a serious and growing problem. We've heard a lot from Democratic candidates about the need for "labor and environmental standards" in trade pacts, as well as eliminating tax-advantages for moving jobs offshore. But this is only part of the story and little of this rhetoric goes much beyond slogan. Kerry needs address the whole, complex set of remedies. Standard economics commends free trade. By having open borders, American businesses get to sell their wares worldwide and locate production in its most efficient venue. American consumers get to choose from among the world's products. What could be bad? But for millions of Americans, trade is a job-killer. Trade is destroying what was once America's "blue collar middle class" and making inroads even in high-skill service jobs like computer programmer...

Open Secret

Dick Cheney is the most powerful Vice President in US history. Indeed, there is fair amount of circumstantial evidence that Cheney, and not Bush, is the real power at the White House, and Bush the figurehead. The true role of the shadowy Cheney is finally becoming an issue in the election, and it deserves to be. This week in the National Review , Byron York warned that Cheney was vulnerable to Democratic attacks. And he deserves to be. A recent piece in the New Yorker by Jane Mayer lays out, in devastating detail, how Cheney, while CEO of Halliburton, created the blueprint for the shifting of much of the military's support role from the armed services to private contractors. The leading contractor, of course, is Halliburton. When Cheney became Vice- President, Halliburton was perfectly positioned to make out like a bandit. Chaney, whose prior career was in politics, became a very rich man as Halliburton's chief executive, earning $45 million in just five years, with $18 million still...

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