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

Ersatz Advisers

George W. Bush's economic-team replacements are looking stranger and stranger. For starters, this was the rare case where the Bush team dropped the ball politically. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill got dumped before there was a new man in place. O'Neill had irritated the Bushies because he is a plainspoken fellow rather than a loyalist. One of the things he had spoken plainly about was his skepticism on the need for a big new tax cut. In addition, O'Neill, former CEO of Alcoa, was seen as a liability because he never really gained the confidence of Wall Street in a year when financial markets were tumbling. Every few months, O'Neill was in the habit of asking his sponsor, Vice President Dick Cheney, if he still enjoyed the confidence of the White House. As recently as last month, Cheney provided that assurance. Then, last week, Cheney informed O'Neill that the administration planned to make a change early in the new year but that it wanted O'Neill to stay on a few weeks until a...

Comment: Sins of Commission

T he appointment of Henry Kissinger to chair a commission on the September 11 attacks has provoked widespread clucking. As Maureen Dowd aptly put it, Henry Kissinger isn't whom you hire to get to the bottom of something. "If you want to keep others from getting to the bottom of something, you appoint Henry Kissinger," she wrote. In general, the right has been far more nimble than the liberal left at the use of commissions. The right has made ideological headway by setting up pseudo-official panels of experts to publicize and lobby for predetermined conclusions. One notorious example was the famous Team B, conceived by the hawkish Committee on the Present Danger to claim that the CIA was actually understating the Soviet Union's military strength and to press for more Pentagon spending and a harder U.S. line against the Soviets. Under then-CIA Director George H.W. Bush, Team B in 1976 was given semigovernmental status and access to classified military and intelligence information. Its...

Budgetary Mess

In looking for the proverbial silver lining in a very cloudy election, Democrats can take comfort from one result. The Republican victory finally blew away the Democrats' disastrous strategy of trying to attract voters by being the party of perpetual budget- balance. Last week at Washington strategy meetings, senior Democrats from both the party's liberal and moderate wings agreed that budget- balance was no longer a winning card -- if indeed it ever was. Instead, the issue dividing the parties has become how best to use temporary deficits to energize the economy. Not only is the economy softening; we are engaged in a buildup for a possible war. On both counts, deficits are now entirely defensible. The Bush administration wants to deepen the deficit by making permanent the upper-bracket tax cuts enacted in 2001, and by adding new tax breaks for corporations and high income investors. This is advertised as an "economic stimulus." As an alternative, Democrats are now working on a very...

Comment: The Unconvincing Case for War

R ecently, the Prospect sponsored a debate on Iraq. Interestingly, both teams were ostensibly liberal Democrats. Arguing for a U.S. invasion were Jonathan Chait, a Prospect alumnus and author of a recent New Republic cover piece on the liberal case for war, and Kenneth Pollack, a former CIA analyst, National Security Council staffer under Clinton and author of The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq . Opposing invasion were Bill Galston, a former Clinton and Gore adviser and a leading theorist of the Democratic Leadership Council (which this page often criticizes), and Ben Barber, author of the best-selling Jihad vs. McWorld . Both Barber and Galston have written cover pieces for this magazine opposing the Bush policy on Iraq. Pollack is as good as the hawks have. His core argument is that Saddam Hussein will acquire nuclear weapons and will not hesitate to use them, either for blackmail or in actual warfare. Therefore, it logically follows that we should have the war sooner...

The Rich-Poor Gap in Decent Preschools

T he well-named Jack Grubman, a onetime superstar stock analyst at Citicorp, first got into big trouble when it came out that he apparently shaded his stock picks in order to curry favor with Citicorp's corporate clients. Last week it emerged that Grubman also bragged in an e-mail that he had upgraded his rating of sagging AT&T stock to do his boss a favor, so that the boss, Citicorp chairman Sandy Weill, would use his influence to help Grubman get his twins into a prestigious nursery school. (AT&T's chairman served on Citicorp's board, and was a Citicorp client.) The Grubman kids did get admitted, but Grubman insists the e-mail was just an empty boast. What makes the Manhattan school in question, the preschool of the 92nd street Y, so special? It has a terrific record at graduating its tots into elite private grammar schools, which in turn feed prestigious prep schools and then, of course, the Ivy League. But what about the rest of America? Though this story is a titillating...

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