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

Introduction:

A recession was supposed to rescue the Democrats in next November's midterm election. Even if they had little else, Democratic strategists expected, they could bash Bush for a weak economy. But the recession evidently is over almost before it began, and it's not even April. The unemployment rate has declined for two straight months and may not reach 6 percent. Economic growth has turned positive. Other standard economic indicators -- inventories, consumer spending, factory orders, and so on -- suggest an economy in recovery. This surprising turn raises two questions: First, is the recovery real and durable? And second, what does this do to the Democrats? Seemingly, they are stuck with an unelected Republican president who had the luck first to stumble into a security crisis that allowed him to impersonate Churchill, and then into a quick economic turnaround for which he can credit his Reaganesque tax cut. Most economic commentators viewed September 11 as the coup de grâce to a...

Economics for Democrats

Even if the recession's over, not everyone's making out fine.

A recession was supposed to rescue the Democrats in next November's midterm election. Even if they had little else, Democratic strategists expected, they could bash Bush for a weak economy. But the recession evidently is over almost before it began, and it's not even April. The unemployment rate has declined for two straight months and may not reach 6 percent. Economic growth has turned positive. Other standard economic indicators -- inventories, consumer spending, factory orders, and so on -- suggest an economy in recovery. This surprising turn raises two questions: First, is the recovery real and durable? And second, what does this do to the Democrats? Seemingly, they are stuck with an unelected Republican president who had the luck first to stumble into a security crisis that allowed him to impersonate Churchill, and then into a quick economic turnaround for which he can credit his Reaganesque tax cut. Most economic commentators viewed September 11 as the coup de grâce to a...

Enron's End-Runs

T here are so many scandals in this Enron era that sometimes it is hard to connect the dots. What ties them all together is the broad acceptance of conflicts of interest as a way of life. Consider the emblematic scandal of our time: Stockbrokers were supposed to serve the interests of their customers, but many continued to tout Enron stock even as the company was imploding. Auditors were supposed to attest to the honesty of company books, but Arthur Andersen in its consulting role made lucrative fees helping Enron management concoct dubious financial manipulations that Andersen auditors then blessed. The chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Harvey Pitt, comes directly from a lucrative career lobbying on behalf of accounting firms including Andersen to prevent tough regulation. How can he ethically serve both masters, not to mention the public interest? He can't. The other corporate meltdown in the headlines is Global Crossing, a would-be telecommunications giant. Global...

Comment: The Road to Enron

F or the past quarter-century, America has been deregulating capitalism in expectation of a more dynamic and efficient economy. In fact, average economic growth since 1976 has slightly lagged that of the previous quarter-century, when capitalism was more highly regulated. But there has been a much more serious set of consequences--widening inequality, the dismantling of public remedy, and the neutering of the Democratic Party as a medium of progressive politics. A brief recap: The economy faltered in the early 1970s, largely because of the first oil shock and the collapse of the system of fixed exchange rates anchored by the U.S. dollar. Inflation and then "stagflation" served politically to discredit Keynesian economic policies as well as economic regulation. What followed was new prestige for market fundamentalism--the idea that capitalism is best left alone. (This conceit came back into intellectual fashion around the time that the last economists who personally remembered 1929...

Enronomics, Anyone?

M any economists and Bush administration officials are declaring the recession over. Their evidence is a slight improvement in some economic indicators, such as unemployment and business inventories. But my bet is that the economy will be weak for the remainder of the year and that it will be many years before we return to the prosperity of the 1990s. Ordinarily, this reality would seriously hurt an incumbent president. But here's a second bet: Unless the Democrats radically shift their campaigning style and themes, Bush's halo effect from the Afghan war could insulate the Republicans from damage on economic issues in the mid-term elections this fall. First, the economic news: One big economic drag is the stock market. The market was so overvalued in the late 1990s that many investors are still traumatized. Corporate earnings are not rebounding, and investors wonder how many other Enrons are yet unexploded. All the paper wealth that accumulated in the boom years made people feel like...

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