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

Ball Drop

Happy New Year, George W. Bush. You enjoyed an Election Day blowout. Your popularity ratings are holding up nicely. But 2003 may not be as happy a year for you as 2002. For starters, there's the economy. It looks like the new year will bring a "jobless recovery," if not a recession. Consumer spending, which has been keeping the economy out of recession, is faltering. Retailers had their worst Christmas in more than a decade. Housing prices are on the decline. Unemployment is up. The stock market can't gain any traction. The fallout from the market collapse has been partly contained because low interest rates and cheap home equity loans kept personal consumption humming through most of 2002. But the Federal Reserve will not likely lower rates further, and consumers are turning jittery. State and local governments are in fiscal free fall. Their increased taxes and reduced services will also be a drag on the economy. The administration seems oblivious. The reason may be that only three...

Comment: Having It Both Ways on Race

T he Trent Lott affair reminds us of the American capacity for mass denial, particularly where race is concerned. Republican racism, certainly, is an open secret. It isn't limited to good-old-boy senators from Mississippi or South Carolina who are relics from a broadly discredited past. Ever since Lyndon Johnson declared, "We shall overcome," and Richard Nixon countered with his southern strategy, the Republican grand electoral design has been based on locking up the white South while playing to the white backlash in the North. Often the appeals to race are tacit, sometimes they are crude; but the stance is unmistakable to anyone who bothered to notice. But few did, until Lott blurted out his nostalgia for segregation. So powerful is the mass denial that it took several days before his remarks even became a story. It was in the 2002 election, after all, that a popular Democratic governor in Georgia was ousted by the voters, in large part because he spent some of his political capital...

Best for Last

In the end, the problem was not Al Gore's stands on the issues. The problem was Gore. The difficulty was not Gore as a person but Gore as a politician. People who know Gore well say he is a delightful, relaxed and funny man in private. His kids are said to be among the genuinely nicest of politicians' children. But put Gore into campaign mode and the man sounds phony and preachy, stiff and contrived. Gore's recent actions were a tip-off to anyone who was paying attention. His two recent books on the family -- reviewed in the pages of the most recent Prospect by Garance Franke-Ruta -- foreshadowed Gore's departure from the presidential race. These were the books of a man who was fed up with posturing. In them, he and his wife, Tipper, called for a celebration of the American family in all of its diverse forms. The books must have given hives to Gore's cautious Democratic Leadership Council handlers who want him to embrace "mainstream" values -- as if single-parent families, lesbian...

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...

Pages