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

The Fruits of Bushonomics

George W. Bush faces a race between the ill-advised economic policies sown in the first half of his term and the bitter fruit that those policies are starting to bear. If the sour effects of his economic policies are evident by mid-2004, he is in deep political trouble. For now, at least, Bush can say that the economic news is mixed. The unemployment rate went up to 6.4 percent in May. It dropped slightly, to 6.2 percent, in June -- but only because more and more people have dropped out of the labor force entirely as payrolls continued to shrink. Economic growth came in at 2.4 percent for the second quarter of 2003. That was better than expected, but it needs to hit 4 percent or higher to reduce unemployment. Bush's cheerleaders say that will happen, in well-choreographed fashion, in the election year. But will it? Timing is everything. George Bush the first missed his rendezvous with prosperity in 1992. And the policies of Bush I were not as damaging as those of Bush II. Consider...

Double Standard

Item: The House passes legislation allowing consumers to import cheaper drugs from Canada. Item: IBM plans to move thousands of computer programming jobs to India. Question: Aren't both events logical consequences of globalization of commerce? Answer: Not if you're big business, which loves moving cheap jobs offshore but hates competing with cheaper imported drugs. India symbolizes both sides of this debate. If you get into a conversation with a billing representative of your credit card provider or your phone company, you may notice a faint Indian accent. The services industry is shifting more backroom operations to India, where wages are a fraction of ours. Industry defends these moves as cost-effective and economically sensible. If productive, English-speaking workers in India can perform the jobs, why not move the work there and pass the savings along to shareholders and consumers? Most economists, enthusiasts of free commerce, agree that these shifts help both India and the...

No Clothes

After September 11, even George W. Bush's harshest critics credited him for leading. Lately, Bush has been doing the opposite. What does it mean to lead? A real leader puts his own prestige on the line -- to educate public opinion, to pursue necessary policies that are sometimes unpopular, and to take responsibility. Lyndon Johnson took huge risks to redeem the promise of Emancipation and to lead America into a dubious war. He might have survived the bruises of the former were it not for the latter. But in both cases the policies were his own. Richard Nixon, not America's most honorable president, took responsibility for controversial policies -- opening to China, using temporary wage and price controls, attempting to convert welfare to a guaranteed annual income. He won some, lost some, and was reelected overwhelmingly in 1972. Bill Clinton put his presidency at risk to raise taxes on the rich and balance the budget, to end welfare as we knew it, and to get NAFTA enacted. When...

Health Club

Is the proposed Medicare drug benefit, now before the Senate, worth having? It covers only about one-fourth of seniors' drug expenses. But is it a first step toward a comprehensive benefit, as Democrats hope and Republicans fear? Or is it the first step to privatized Medicare, as Republicans hope and Democrats fear? There's also the political question of who gains in 2004. If the bill passes, President Bush can usurp a popular Democratic issue and boast: "I delivered a drug benefit under Medicare." But his Democratic challenger can say: "Bush's Medicare drug benefit doesn't even take effect until 2006. It's a sweetheart deal for HMOs. It has more holes than benefits. The only reason you get anything is that Democrats fought for it and Republicans were forced to go along. Vote for us and we will get you the rest." Here's what the bipartisan Senate bill, approved last Thursday, 16-5, by the Finance Committee, actually does: Beginning in 2006, seniors could pay an additional $35 a month...

Health Pair

Heart disease runs in part of my family. A beloved uncle died at 50 of a heart attack. One grandmother died in her 60s of congestive heart failure; the other of high blood pressure. Others, happily, have lived into their 90s, and I hope I take after them. In those years, doctors could do little. There was aspirin for pain, nitroglycerine for temporary relief of "angina," and digitalis to stimulate the heart. That was it. But today my fate is not just a matter of diet, exercise and genetics. There are statin drugs if my arteries tend to clog, several classes of blood pressure medication, and much more. There are elegant diagnostic tests, like the echocardiogram I recently had, where I could both see my heart and its valves on a monitor and listen to the healthy sloshing of my splendid pump. (I'm fine, Mom, this was a routine screening.) And if things ever get bad, there are delicate angio-procedures, valve jobs, triple and quadruple bypasses, even heart transplants. And they all cost a...

Pages