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

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...

Dean's Legacy

Let us now praise Howard Dean -- and ask him to go gracefully. Dean performed a real service to his party and to his country. He got into the race early, and bravely, when President Bush, waving the bloody shirt of 9/11, was deemed unbeatable. Dean demonstrated that there was a real hunger, and not just among the young, for a candidate who would speak truth to power. In a sense, he made it safe for the rest of the Democratic field to be a lot tougher on Bush and his rogue foreign policy. If Bush today seems an incumbent with a glass jaw, history should give Howard Dean a lot of credit. Dean also invented a new way of doing politics and raising money, via the Internet. Despite the faltering of Dean's candidacy, every other candidate is now imitating the e-fundraising that Dean pioneered, which still has the potential of allowing small money to level the playing field against big money. And Dean demonstrated anew the small-d democratic potential of electoral politics. He was fond of...

Honeymoon Over

Last week, in this space, I suggested that President Bush had reached a tipping point in his credibility with the broad public and the mainstream press. I speculated that we would soon see newsmagazine covers depicting Bush in trouble. Well, Time Magazine obliged. Its new cover shows a two-faced Bush, and asks: "Does Bush Have a Credibility Gap?" Does he ever. The press has at last given itself permission to be tougher on misrepresentations that have characterized the Bush presidency since its beginnings. Bush's hour-long Sunday interview with Tim Russert of Meet the Press crystallized the moment, and underscored just how vulnerable the president suddenly is. That Bush did the interview at all is an indication of panic setting in. This president is not noted for his effectiveness off the cuff. He does well to the extent that he is scripted and not exposed to spontaneous encounters where he might wander "off message." The Russert interview was a reminder that the Democratic candidates...

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