Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, a professor at Brandeis University's Heller School, and 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

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...

What Voters Really Want

What do voters really want from government? Despite years of government-bashing, several recent polls suggest that voters still count heavily on government for social and economic security. And, while the Bush administration wins broad support for its antiterrorism program, liberal economic themes on other issues resonate with voters. Pollster Celinda Lake, in a new series of polls sponsored by the Ms Foundation for Women, found that 76 percent of voters thought government should do more to help working families, 84 percent want a higher minimum wage, 87 percent want government help for health insurance to laid off workers, 82 percent want extended unemployment benefits. At a time when the Bush administration is reprogramming welfare funds to promote marriage as the solution to poverty, less than 3 percent think the welfare system's job is to encourage marriage. More than 80 percent believe government should increase benefits for women who have left welfare and are working, including...

Comment: Second Thoughts

W hen the World Trade Center was attacked, some progressives went, almost reflexively, into antiwar mode. Most, however, supported military action, because the incineration of innocents in the heart of Manhattan was so appalling; because the Taliban regime was so brutal; and--somewhat less nobly--because dissent in a time of national outrage courted political isolation. After nearly six months, however, the Taliban is gone, policy is a mess, and the president should be fair game. There was a road not taken--treating the September 11 attacks as a criminal conspiracy, not an act of war. September 11 was a failure of intelligence, security, and diplomacy. The president might have responded by beefing up security, intelligence, diplomatic pressure, and commando efforts. From the start, of course, Bush opted for war. Only history can judge whether the Afghan war was a bold stroke or a blunder, depending on the secondary effects. But that jury is still out. Historical choices look...

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