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

Baghdad Blues

For the most part, John Kerry has a far more sensible Iraq policy than George W. Bush does, and this should serve him well in the campaign. Yet if Kerry is not careful, Bush's quagmire could turn into Kerry's. In his speeches, Kerry has warned that we need to remove the "Made in America" label from the occupation. Kerry would give a UN High Commissioner for Governance and Reconstruction dominant role. He would replace the US force with a NATO force under an American military commander. So far, so good. But in other remarks, Kerry has occasionally suggested that having blundered into this mess, we owe it to the Iraqis to "stay the course." He told CNN that he thought the administration's June 30 deadline for turning over authority was unrealistic, implying a longer US occupation. At times, Kerry has even suggested that for a time we might need to put in more troops to protect the ones already there. The trouble with this stance is that the Iraq occupation is turning out to be a...

Outsmarting Outsourcing

Last week I addressed the dilemma of job outsourcing. I promised some remedies in this column. In truth, the outsourcing of American jobs is one relatively small facet of the larger problem -- the steady erosion of jobs that pay middle-class wages. A global economy makes this challenge more difficult because it puts many American workers into direct competition with foreigners who are happy to work for less. Most of the solution to the outsourcing problem, however, is domestic. In recent decades, institutions that once produced a more equal society have been dismantled or weakened. These included government regulation of wages and working conditions, of industry practices, of a worker's right to choose a union (or not), as well as various social investments that once contributed good jobs. If we can rebuild these, the loss of some jobs overseas will continue to be a problem, but a manageable one. The majority of jobs in the economy today are in the service sector, and many of these...

Taking the Low Road

The people who insist that outsourcing is a trivial problem are wrong -- but so are those who tell you that there is an easy solution. The basic dilemma has several parts. First, the productivity of workers in poor countries is running far ahead of the wages they receive. That means Mexican autoworkers, unlike their American counterparts, can't afford to buy the cars they build. This reality is unprecedented. There has always been a lot of trade between rich countries and poor ones. But the ability of the world's lowest-paid workers to work with advanced production technology, the dropping of barriers to trade, and the integration of a global information economy are all relatively new. The analogy to trade within large countries is entirely false. Imagine that Massachusetts was paying an average wage of $15.00 an hour, and Connecticut was paying one dollar. An awful lot of jobs would eventually go to Connecticut. The US has always had regional disparities in pay levels -- that's why...

Dear John

Senator John Kerry has enjoyed more party unity than any Democratic challenger in memory. Democrats are so eager to oust George Bush that the normally fractious party of the people is willing to cut Kerry immense amounts of slack. On the whole, that shift reflects overdue maturity. However, Kerry's honeymoon could founder on three key questions -- his budget strategy, Iraq, and his choice of running mate. Kerry-nomics . The Kerry camp, to the consternation of liberals, has now embraced deficit reduction as its economic centerpiece. The policy is sensible as far as it goes. But will it go too far and moot social investment? As economics, the premise is that a repeat of Clinton's performance in reducing the deficits accumulated by Reagan and Bush I will reassure money markets and restore high growth. As politics, the idea is: First, keep it simple. The Clinton era is associated with prosperity. Clinton turned deficits to surpluses. Ergo, Kerry should do likewise. Second, Kerry is being...

Thanks, Mr. President

Suppose John Kerry actually gets elected president. Here's what he has to look forward to. On the economic front, most observers expect higher interest rates in late 2004. Kerry will face a sluggish economy, and perhaps a double-dip recession. The reason for the higher interest rates is the Bush deficits. At some point soon, money markets will start demanding a better return if they are to keep buying government bonds. To undo the fiscal mess, Kerry would be torn between reassuring Wall Street with a lot of deficit cutting, and trying to find some funds to restore domestic social investment. Foreign policy and domestic security will not be pretty, either. As the focus shifts from imagined threats (Saddam Hussein) to real ones (the scandalously weak state of domestic preparedness against terrorist attack), a Kerry administration would need to spend more on everything from port security to Public Health Service monitoring of a possible biological or radiological attack. On the foreign...

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