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

Bad Wager

The economy grew at a sizzling 8.2 percent in the third quarter. But job growth is not following. The economy has shed about 2.6 million jobs since President Bush took office. In the past few months, it has begun creating new jobs, but not nearly enough. Last month the economy gained only 57,000 new jobs, compared with the 306,000 a month pledged by the administration. It actually continued to lose jobs in the politically sensitive manufacturing sector, some 19,000 last month. It's not that the economy is generating no manufacturing jobs at all. Rather, the good, unionized jobs in sectors like autos and steel are being lost to automation and low-wage foreign competition. It just happens that manufacturing is concentrated in political battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Last month the unemployment rate ticked downward a bit, to 5.9 percent. Job creation at the current rate will not make much of a dent on overall unemployment between now and next...

Time Trial

For both parties, next year's presidential election is, in many ways, a race against the clock. For President Bush, the question is whether he peaks too early. For now, the economic news is good and the war news just barely tolerable. But take a closer look at both fronts. On the economy, the ideal time for Bush's reelection would be about now, when everything is on an upswing. Unfortunately, the election is next fall. Economic growth and the beginning of job growth have returned. However, both are built on an unsustainable degree of economic stimulus. The federal budget deficit is about 5 percent of GDP, and rising. Interest rates are at five-decade lows. With that amount of stimulus, of course the economy grows. Even so, jobs are not yet growing fast enough to reduce unemployment much, and wages are still fairly flat. The problem is that you can't sustain very high deficits and very low interest rates very long. Money markets look at the rising national debt, and start getting very...

Prescient Precedents

What will result from the the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling that gays have the right to marry -- a victory for tolerance, liberty and privacy, or an invitation to backlash? It's too soon to tell, but in the expansion of rights and liberties, courts and political movements often interact in surprising ways. A court decision can lend legitimacy to minority assertion of rights and liberties, and embolden that movement. But if the decision is politically premature, it can invite complacency, conflict, or backlash. Finley Peter Dunne's character Mr. Dooley said famously that the Supreme Court follows the election results. He meant that courts are creatures of their times. The Earl Warren Court, liberal as it was, would not have upheld gay marriage, because the issue was not on the radar screen. Yet, in a sense, all bold court decisions are politically premature. And, conversely, some social revolutions are beyond the reach of courts. The epic example is slavery. The Republic had been...

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'...

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