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

Rampant Bull

Are liberals failing to rise in defense of their greatest legacy? As calls for privatizing Social Security grow louder, the time has come for a bold new defense of universal social insurance.

In 1981, a young aide to Ronald Reagan named Peter Ferrara proposed a scheme to privatize Social Security. At the time, a serious shortfall was projected in the system's long-term financing. Even at his zenith, however, Reagan knew better than to tamper with America's best-loved (if most redistributive and costly) public program. Ferrara, the author of a Cato Institute book titled Social Security: The Inherent Contradiction, proposed to scrap the whole system in favor of private individual retirement accounts (IRAs). This was surely dear to the hearts of Reaganites-but Ferrara was kept far from the administration's Social Security policy, and even farther from the press.

A Misguided Goal for Social Security

The stock market has been pretty stagnant. Despite one rate cut after another by the
Federal Reserve, the market shows no signs of reverting to its 1990s performance any time
soon. One casualty of a bear market is likely to be the campaign to privatize Social Security.

Bush is Bombing on Social Security

What was George W. Bush thinking when he proposed to replace part of Social Security with
private retirement accounts? Bush has faced several legislative defeats lately, but nothing has
quite bombed like his Social Security program.

His Social Security commission was deliberately stacked with nominally bipartisan experts who had
only one thing in common. They all supported partial privatization of Social Security.

Beware Bush Words On Benefits

Although his proposed tax cut has captured the headlines, President Bush's
budget is also offering America a radically different path for its two best-loved
programs, Social Security and Medicare. Until recently, these towering monuments of
social insurance were politically untouchable.

Even President Reagan, who was at least honest about his conservative goals, did not dare mess
with Social Security. Medicare, until lately, has also been sacrosanct. Both parties have vied
with each other to pose as its champion.

Getting Over The Lock Box

For six decades, Democrats have been proud defenders
of America's most popular government program, Social
Security. But the debate is now becoming so muddled that when
the dust settles, Social Security may well end up partly privatized
with George W. Bush getting credit for saving it.

How could this have happened?

Twenty years ago, it became clear that Social Security
needed adjustment because people were living longer. Unlike a
private retirement account, Social Security keeps sending the
checks as long as you live.

In 1983, Congress slightly raised both taxes and the
retirement age. It also adjusted the cost-of-living formula.