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

The 2-Percent Illusion

The 2% Solution: Fixing America's Problems in Ways Liberals and Conservatives Can Love By Matthew Miller, Public Affairs, 320 pages, $26.00 Matthew Miller is a serious, well-read man of genuinely public-minded impulses. A veteran of Bill Clinton's budget office, he writes an often-liberal syndicated column and co-hosts a nationally syndicated public-radio program called "Left, Right & Center." Now he has written a book around the appealing idea that for just 2 percent of our national income (currently about $220 billion), we can give everyone a living wage, good health insurance and decent schools, plus get big money out of politics. Miller is scandalized that millions of American kids go to bad schools, that tens of millions of American families lack health insurance and that hard-working breadwinners earn poverty wages. To him it is just common sense that each side should give a little and embrace his intelligent ideas. He does deserve credit for calling for more public spending...

Wrecking Bill

The Bush administration's Medicare bill is a calculated first step toward ending universal Medicare in favor of vouchers. President Bush and his congressional allies have deftly baited this hook with meager prescription drug benefits. With legislators wanting to go home for Thanksgiving, the White House hopes to force a vote by this weekend. The haste is understandable: The more this cynical bill is exposed, the less legislators will fear voting against it. Consider: Skimpy Drug Benefits . The administration refused to confront the pricing power of drug companies. So the government would be billed at exorbitant prices, and the new $40 billion a year in benefits would cover only a fraction of consumers' drug expenses. Under the formula, if you incurred $3,600 of annual drug costs, the program would cover only $1,285. (It covers 95 percent after $3,600, but a lot of people would not participate at all because they couldn't afford the upfront costs.) Capped Benefits . The administration'...

Stunted Growth

The economy grew at a sizzling 7.2 percent last quarter, surprising many analysts. If this performance continues, it's good news for the Bush administration -- and the opposition Democrats will stop talking about the economy. But before Bush and company declare "economic mission accomplished," consider two problems. First, the benefits of the growth are not trickling down. Second, a high growth rate built on Bush's policies is unsustainable. Even with the highest growth rate since the mid-1980s, the economy shed another 41,000 jobs in the third quarter and has lost 2.7 million jobs since Bush took office. Second, a boom with deficits this huge eventually pushes up interest rates and is thus self-extinguishing. Curiously, only about one-fifth of the quarter's high growth rate has resulted from the deficits. Most of it reflects low interest rates and consumer borrowing and spending. It's sensible to run big deficits in the short run to help kick-start a flat economy. This year's deficit...

Bank Roll

Bank of America's acquisition of Fleet Bank is a terrible idea, on several different levels. The most obvious is that it eliminates a New England-based top-tier bank. When Fleet, a transplant from Providence, absorbed venerable BankBoston, Fleet executives made much of the fact that this new merger would keep a world-scale bank based in New England. That promise lasted just four years. The history of these mega-mergers is that the ordinary customer is the loser. In former CEO Terry Murray's drive to make Fleet the region's biggest bank, Fleet was always too preoccupied digesting the last takeover target to provide decent service. I personally spent more than a decade trying to stay out of Fleet's clutches. I had a good experience with Brookline Trust, which was absorbed by Patriot Bank, which was absorbed by Bank of New England, which was absorbed by Fleet. I moved to BankBoston. Then BankBoston was taken over by Fleet. Before it approved that merger, the Federal Reserve required...

Funny, They Don't Look Jewish

The hallmark of the Bush foreign policy has been a naive radicalism married to an operational incompetence. A small clique with a preconceived blueprint took advantage of a national emergency and a callow president, blowing a containable threat into war while dismissing more ominous menaces. These people are out to remake the world, with little sense of risk, proportion or history. At this writing, the president's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, has seized some authority over the Iraq policy from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who responded with adolescent pique. The long-abused Secretary of State Colin Powell offered new respect for the UN. President Bush even directly contradicted Vice President Dick Cheney's discredited claim of a link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. In a different administration, these shifts would signal that the chief executive, clearly in control, had recognized the misjudgments and costs of a failed policy, demoted those responsible and...

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