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

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...

Blood Count

Out of the blue, a dear friend finds herself in the hospital. The diagnosis: leukemia. She has a fighting chance of beating it, but she's pretty sick and word goes out: She needs blood donors. I'm O-positive. So is she. It's been a while since I've done this, I'm ashamed to say, and I don't quite remember the ground rules. Does my friend literally get my blood? Is there a system of credits, where she's entitled to one pint for every pint that somebody donates in her name? Come to think of it, she's desperately ill. Shouldn't she just get the blood she needs? And, more basically, how should society collect and distribute blood, so that there are fewer shortages? When I arrive at the hospital, I see signs everywhere. Blood shortage: Please donate. Evidently, there are cases more urgent than my friend's -- trauma and emergency surgery, other medical patients in life or death situations. For my friend, not getting enough transfusions merely makes her feel awful and delays her remission...

A Foreign-Policy Emergency

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...

Failed State

Trends and fads often start in California, and that thought should terrify anyone who cares about a functioning democracy. Tuesday's recall election is history's ironic revenge on a well- intentioned set of reforms championed by the Golden State's great progressive governor, Hiram Johnson. Johnson's Progressives, beginning in 1911, enacted the populist measures beloved by that generation of reformers -- the ballot initiative, the recall, and non-partisan local elections. Johnson was a crusader against monopolies. He imagined that giving government back to the people would purge politics of the corruption of moneyed interests. But in practice these reforms have paralyzed government, leading to cycles of ever-greater voter frustration and ever-nuttier remedies. Direct democracy has also enabled organized right-wingers to stampede a vulnerable middle class. In that respect, even the faintest Hitler reference is doubly chilling. How to wreck democracy: Have voters choose among 135...

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