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

Fund High-Speed Rail, and Lose Airport Gridlock

Two weeks ago, needing to get from Boston to New York for a meeting, I decided to try Amtrak's new Acela Express. It was on time, at 3 hours and 20 minutes. Even so, the office-to-office trip took nearly two hours longer than the air shuttle ordinarily does. Last week I had to be in New York again, for a 10:30 meeting. This time I opted for the 8 a.m. air shuttle. But a brief thunderstorm passed through the New York area, closing La Guardia for less than hour. However, that was enough to cause a morning's worth of bottlenecks. At 9:30, with no takeoff time in sight, the pilot kindly let some passengers get off the plane. The rest may still be there. This country's major airports are on the verge of perpetual gridlock. Our one really successful fast train - the New York-Washington Metroliner (three hours) now has about 40 percent of the intercity air/rail business between those two cities. The Acela cuts that to two and a half hours. If Amtrak got the New York-Boston run down to two...

Comment: The End of Citizenship?

For all of the carnival aspect of the Seattle protests, something very important has been stimulated by the World Trade Organization (WTO) sessions. For the first time, a coherent opposition program has begun to challenge the dominant consensus about global trade. For more than a century, the world's ordinary citizens and their elected leaders have struggled to make market systems socially bearable. At the center of this project is elected government based on democratic citizenship. Govern ment has two basic instruments available to tame capitalism: the power to raise revenues for social purposes and the power to regulate. In the advanced countries, these have served to temper, stabilize, and even energize capitalism. But now, parading under the banner of global trade, the world's banks, investors, and corporations want to revert to capitalism circa 1890—the property rights minus the social standards and stabilizers. As Margaret Thatcher famously said, "There Is No Alternative." "Tina...

State of the Debate: Peddling Krugman

Paul Krugman criticizes supporters of government activism as nothing but policy peddlers and economic illiterates, but describes himself as a liberal. What is MIT's prodigy really up to?

WORKS DISCUSSED IN THIS ESSAY: Strategic Trade Policy and the New International Economics (collection) (MIT Press, 1986). The Age of Diminished Expectations: U.S. Economic Policy in the 1990s (Washington Post Company, 1990). Peddling Prosperity: Economic Sense and Nonsense in the Age of Diminished Expectations (W.W. Norton & Co., 1994). Pop Internationalism (MIT Press, 1996). A generation ago, mainstream economics provided intellectual support for a mixed economy. Keynesianism gave legitimacy to macroeconomic intervention and public spending generally. The regulation of leading industries was anchored in the respectable economic ideas that many industries either were "natural monopolies" or displayed positive and negative spillovers not captured in market pricing. Social insurance and redistributive taxation enjoyed wide political support, and economists could explain why a more equal income distribution was good for growth as well as equity. Today, nearly all of the mainstream...

NAFTA-Style Trade Deal Bad for Democracy

This weekend's Summit of the Americas aims to extend a NAFTA-style free trade area to the entire Western Hemisphere. As Secretary of State Colin Powell recently put it, ''We will be able to sell American goods, technology, and services without obstacles or restrictions from the Arctic to Cape Horn.'' And foreign businesses will likewise be able to sell goods and services in the United States ''without obstacles or restrictions.'' But one person's restrictions are another person's vital social safeguards. Here is a short list of ''obstacles and restrictions'' that constrain American corporations - and represent a century of struggle to make America a more decent society: We allow workers to organize unions. We limit the pollutants that corporations can dump into the environment. We have regulations protecting employees from unsafe working conditions. We assure consumers safe food, and drugs, and drinking water, and other products. We require business to partly underwrite social...

Ralph Nader: A Conversation

Robert Kuttner: I am sympathetic to much of your diagnosis of the dependence of both parties on corporations. But I am skeptical about what you can really accomplish tactically. Historically, what have American third parties accomplished in the past, and what do you hope to accomplish? Ralph Nader: Well, in the past, third parties have marched early and consistently with social justice movements before either major party came on. Whether it was the antislavery drive or women's right to vote, the trade union movement or the populist-progressive farmers movement, third parties in effect politicized the initiative and told the major parties that they either had to respond or they were going to lose part of their margin to the other major party. So if we can build a Green Party that goes over 5 percent, the Democratic Party won't be the same again--because it will have to take into consideration losing, because of that...

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