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

Boston Marathon

This could be the first year since 1960 that the Democratic nomination contest goes all the way to the convention. In that year, John Kennedy eked out a first ballot win, but the roll call of the states went all the way to the letter W -- Wyoming -- before Kennedy went over the top. You have to go back to 1952 for a convention that went more than one ballot (Adlai Stevenson won it on the third.) Most knowledgeable observers think I'm inhaling something. The usual view is that after a few primaries, the race must narrow to the top two contenders because everyone else's money dries up. But consider these unusual factors, which have all converged this year: Proportional Voting. The Democrats no longer use a winner-take- all-system. Thanks to party reforms, votes are allocated proportionally. So, in a nine-person field, a candidate can "win", say, South Carolina with a plurality of 30 percent of the vote -- but only get about 30 percent of that state's delegates. In the old days, the...

Vicious circle

In 1975, political scientist Edward Tufte and economist William Norhaus put forth a theory of the political business cycle. Usually, "business cycle" refers to the normal ups and downs of the economy. Their insight was that the business cycle is influenced by politics. These scholars documented that incumbent presidents often used their influence with Congress and the Federal Reserve to artificially pump up the economy for their reelections and dealt with the resulting damage once they were safely returned to office. Richard Nixon's 1972 landslide nicely fit the pattern. So did Lyndon Johnson's "guns and butter" economic program of 1967-68 (except that the Democrats were undone by the Vietnam War). The theory later fell into disfavor. Neither Jimmy Carter (defeated in 1980) nor George H.W. Bush (defeated in 1992) could manipulate the economy well enough to save their jobs. Carter fell to stagflation and Bush I to recession and a jobless recovery. But the political business cycle is...

The outlook for 2004

What a year it has been! But what will 2004 bring? You can be a pundit, too. Here are some scenarios for the New Year. I'll reveal my own guesses at the bottom of the column, and this time next year we can see who was the best prognosticator. 1. Politics. (a) Howard Dean sweeps the Democratic primaries, wins his party's nomination, picks Wesley Clark as his running mate, fires up the Democratic base -- and loses a close race to President Bush. (b) Dick Gephardt and Wesley Clark do better than expected. Kerry hangs in. Dean narrowly places first in several primaries, but captures only 40 percent of the delegates as the vote splinters. Clark, with 30 percent of delegate votes and Gephardt with 25 percent form a Clark-Gephardt ticket. Clark's patriotic appeal in the South combined with Gephardt's pocketbook pull in the Midwest manage to win a squeaker over Bush. (c) The Democratic convention deadlocks. On the fifth ballot, the delegates turn to Hillary Clinton. Dean's enraged supporters...

Bush's 'ownership' scam

In President Bush's upcoming State of the Union Address, we are going to hear a lot about something called an "Ownership Society." The idea is that American workers aspire to be owners - owners of stock for their retirement, owners of homes, owners of businesses, owners of good health insurance, and owners of the skills that they need to navigate multiple changes of jobs and careers. It sounds just great. Take a closer look, however, and you will recognize the trademarked Bush combination of inspiring themes coupled with a complete absence of useful tools. In other words, bait-and-switch. Other recent examples include No Child Left Behind (millions were); the Medicare drug bill (covers less than half the costs and mainly subsidizes drug companies) and three rounds of huge tax breaks that went mostly to the wealthy. But I digress. How does Bush propose to create this "Ownership Society?" Mainly through….more tax credits. If people lack reliable health care, there will be tax-favored...

Tough Guys

Howard Dean had a roller coaster week. December 9, an eternity ago, Al Gore crowned him with a surprise endorsement. Five days later, U.S. forces surprised Saddam Hussein. Once again, Bush trumped Gore. And last weekend, New Hampshire TV spots -- organized by associates of Dick Gephardt and John Kerry -- began warning that Americans live in "a new, dangerous world," in which "Howard Dean cannot compete with George Bush on foreign policy." Dean, unrepentant, declared in his latest foreign policy address, that "the capture of Saddam has not made America safer." He just might be right. Three other Democratic candidates then excoriated Dean. The conservative National Review's current cover shows Dean in full cry, with the headline, "Please Nominate This Man." Dean remains the odds-on Democratic nominee. But can he possibly win in November? Dean has already achieved something revolutionary. Grasping the potential of the Internet as a tool of mobilization and money-raising, his campaign has...

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