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

Inside Out

Dick Grasso is gone as chief of the New York Stock Exchange, but the system of super-enrichment for insiders lives on. The NYSE's new chief, former Citicorp co-chair John S. Reed, has little experience in stock trading and even less as a reformer. But in this sorry mess, he passes for a clean broom. The recent financial scandals -- from Enron to WorldCom to Arthur Andersen to Merrill Lynch and now to the epitome of capitalism itself -- have had one thing in common. The insiders at the very top contrived ways to take astronomical amounts of money for themselves, eluding the supposed forms of accountability, because the self-regulators were on the take, too. Were it not for two fortuitous accidents, Grasso might have happily continued. First, he very foolishly decided to cash $140 million in deferred compensation, which shone an unwelcome spotlight on his deal. Second, William Donaldson, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, happened to be former head of the New York Stock...

Laissez Contraire

What should we think of a developing country that protected its young industries with high tariffs, stole technologies from established nations, used government aid to develop manufacturing and farming, limited foreign ownership of land, devalued its money in defiance of international wishes, imposed currency controls, and even allowed secessionist provinces to default on foreign debt? The country would probably be read out of the World Trade Organization and blacklisted by the International Monetary Fund. Well, the country in question is the United States of America at earlier stages of our development. Other advanced economies, including France, Germany, Korea and Japan, did much the same things. Mercifully, there was no IMF or WTO to retaliate. And it worked out pretty well. Now, however, we deny these tools to today's poor nations. We want them to fling open their borders to foreign private capital, renounce state development aids, balance budgets and conform to our other current...

Opposable Bum

With Labor Day 2003, the race to November 2004 is on. Seemingly, President Bush will be seriously on the defensive on the issues, but with a big advantage on the politics. However, voters are likely to be energized in 2004 as they have rarely been in recent years. And voter mobilization will ultimately determine whether Bush gets a second term. First, the issues. Bush's foreign policy is a shambles. The architects of the Iraq war have been proven wrong on every contention they made -- the imminent weapons of mass destruction, the alleged Saddam-al-Qaeda connection, the supposed ease of occupation and reconstruction. Thumbing America's nose at "old Europe" proved a major blunder. Bush now needs the United Nations to clean up his mess, but he is insisting on U.S. control. France and Germany, not to mention Russia and China, aren't exactly lining up to donate money and troops to bail Bush out. The administration line -- that the Iraq mess proves that the place is a magnet for terrorism...

General Interest

Wesley Clark has told associates that he will decide in the next few weeks whether to declare for president. If he does, it would transform the race. Call me star-struck, but he'd instantly be among the top-tier. Clark, in case you've been on sabbatical in New Zealand, is all over the talk shows. He's the former NATO supreme commander who headed operations in Kosovo, a Rhodes Scholar who graduated first in his class at West Point, and a Vietnam vet with several combat medals including a purple heart. He has been a tough critic of the Bush foreign policy, including the Iraq war. His domestic positions are not as fully fashioned, but he'd repeal Bush's tax cuts and revisit the so-called Patriot Act. More interestingly, Clark is progressive on domestic issues by way of his military background. Though it is very much a hierarchy, the military is also the most egalitarian island in this unequal society. Top executives -- four-star generals -- make about nine times the pay of buck privates...

Electrical Storm

Everyone seems obsessed about which weak link in the power chain caused last week's spectacular blackout. But that exercise is a little like wondering where it was a nail or a piece of glass that finally caused a bald tire to blow. In this case, the bald tire is the electrical grid. And the grid is overstressed because of the logic of electricity deregulation. Until the mid-1990s, local public utilities generated, transported, and sold power. State public utilities commissions shared responsibility for planning adequate capacity and for making sure that utilities invested in maintaining transmission lines. As regulated monopolies, the utilities were guaranteed a fair rate of return. Most economists thought that electric companies had to be organized and regulated as "natural monopolies," for several reasons: Power could not be efficiently stored. Electricity is a vital service. There needs to be spare capacity for periods of peak demand. And it makes no sense economically to string...

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