Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, as well as 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

Comment: A Tipping Point?

M alcolm Gladwell has observed, in The Tipping Point , that trends sometimes build gradually but explode suddenly. As an editor of a liberal magazine, I wonder whether we are nearly at that point with the ascendance of conservatism. For more than two decades conservative media organs, think tanks, foundations, political donors, and politically engaged corporations have gained strength while their liberal counterparts have been fighting a rearguard action. Conservative foundations are very explicit about what they are doing, while liberal ones are often hobbled by business-dominated boards and a reluctance to be explicitly political. The once-liberal press is centrist at best, and the new networks, like Fox, are resolutely right-wing. Our cover story is about yet another emerging right-wing media fiefdom. Elsewhere in this issue, Geoff Nunberg's piece documents that the oft-repeated charge of liberal media bias is nonsense. And tabulations of the influence of think tanks usually reveal...

Where's the Outrage?

T he more we learn about Enron, the more it becomes an indictment both of our financial system and its toothless watchdogs. The real outrage is that Enron isn't more of a scandal. In a new lawsuit filed recently by Enron shareholders, some of the country's top banks and investment banking houses are accused of conspiring with Enron to create phony partnerships that enriched insiders. Why would bankers, models of probity, go along with the scam? The lawsuit alleges that some of the insiders who profited from the rigged books were the bankers themselves. The suit claims that senior bank officers from such trusted institutions as Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase, Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, Lehman Brothers, Credit Suisse First Boston, and others created enormous, illicit profits -- not just for Enron insiders or even for the banks, but for senior banking executives who got a personal piece of the action. If true, this would help explain why some of the smartest financiers in America...

Social's Security:

P ity the people who want to replace social security with private investment accounts. Their timing could hardly be worse. The stock market is flat, and many economists believe it will be fairly flat for a long time to come. A lot of people who were looking forward to comfortable retirements on inflated 401(k) plans have been socked by a down market. They are very grateful for those Social Security checks -- the one part of our patchwork retirement system that is absolutely guaranteed. Meanwhile, the Social Security trustees' latest annual report projects that Social Security is healthier than previously thought. Last year's projection had the system needing a new infusion of funds in 2038. Now, thanks to better economic and demographic news, the system is fine until 2041. Even the famous shortfall still leaves the system with an income stream adequate to pay three-quarters of its projected commitments for 75 years. A modest adjustment in taxes, benefits, or an infusion of general...

Wed Lock:

W hen the welfare reform program of 1996 comes up for renewal later this year, it will have a new emphasis -- wedding bells. The Bush administration wants to spend $300 million of scarce welfare funds to encourage marriage and another $135 million promoting premarital chastity. Several governors have already jumped the (shot)gun with state programs to promote marriage, not just for welfare recipients but for everyone. Some conservatives, like Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, would go further and provide $4,000 bounties for poor people who marry. In the conservative story, poverty reflects sexual permissiveness and the breakdown of traditional sex roles, in which father is the good provider and mother keeper of hearth and nurturer of the young. Most Americans no longer buy that view of marriage, but the conservative story is beguiling because it contains a germ of truth. Early promiscuity, certainly, is not good for young teenagers, and out-of-wedlock teen births usually...

Loyal Opposition:

I n the 1990s, citizens sent Washington a message by giving one party the Congress and the other the presidency -- intensified checks and balances two centuries after the founders thought of the idea. The voters didn't quite trust either party to govern without the restraint of the other. This decade could be a variation on the last one. The voters support Bush on his basic anti-terrorism campaign but are skeptical of some of the military adventurism on the horizon. They like his economic program, especially when he borrows basically Democratic themes like more secure health insurance and better-paying jobs. So despite Bush's huge popularity in the wake of Sept. 11, this could be another decade of partisan cohabitation. On the foreign front, Bush's saber-rattling at Iraq may or may not be unnerving Saddam Hussein, but it is giving pause to our allies and spine to the domestic opposition. Vice President Dick Cheney's Mideast mission to enlist the tacit consent of friendly Arab states...

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