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

General Interest

Wesley Clark has told associates that he will decide in the next few weeks whether to declare for president. If he does, it would transform the race. Call me star-struck, but he'd instantly be among the top-tier. Clark, in case you've been on sabbatical in New Zealand, is all over the talk shows. He's the former NATO supreme commander who headed operations in Kosovo, a Rhodes Scholar who graduated first in his class at West Point, and a Vietnam vet with several combat medals including a purple heart. He has been a tough critic of the Bush foreign policy, including the Iraq war. His domestic positions are not as fully fashioned, but he'd repeal Bush's tax cuts and revisit the so-called Patriot Act. More interestingly, Clark is progressive on domestic issues by way of his military background. Though it is very much a hierarchy, the military is also the most egalitarian island in this unequal society. Top executives -- four-star generals -- make about nine times the pay of buck privates...

Electrical Storm

Everyone seems obsessed about which weak link in the power chain caused last week's spectacular blackout. But that exercise is a little like wondering where it was a nail or a piece of glass that finally caused a bald tire to blow. In this case, the bald tire is the electrical grid. And the grid is overstressed because of the logic of electricity deregulation. Until the mid-1990s, local public utilities generated, transported, and sold power. State public utilities commissions shared responsibility for planning adequate capacity and for making sure that utilities invested in maintaining transmission lines. As regulated monopolies, the utilities were guaranteed a fair rate of return. Most economists thought that electric companies had to be organized and regulated as "natural monopolies," for several reasons: Power could not be efficiently stored. Electricity is a vital service. There needs to be spare capacity for periods of peak demand. And it makes no sense economically to string...

Language and Leadership

Ever since George W. Bush took office, we have marveled at his ability to speak as a moderate, govern as a radical, and not be held accountable by the press or the voters. Democrats, meanwhile, have struggled to find their voice. In this issue of the Prospect , in the centennial year of George Orwell's birth, we address the enduring question of politics and language, newly relevant in the era of Bush. We asked three distinguished linguists (Deborah Tannen, Geoffrey Nunberg and George Lakoff) to examine how Republicans twist language, and we invited an expert on social class and politics (Andrew Levison), as well as President Clinton's former speechwriter (David Kusnet), to address the Democrats' speech pathologies. Then, right at press time, something surprising happened. A Democratic politician delivered a potent speech that summed up the case against Bush with simple eloquence. The speech connected Bush's far-flung deceptions, forcefully and without being shrill. It modeled for...

The Fruits of Bushonomics

George W. Bush faces a race between the ill-advised economic policies sown in the first half of his term and the bitter fruit that those policies are starting to bear. If the sour effects of his economic policies are evident by mid-2004, he is in deep political trouble. For now, at least, Bush can say that the economic news is mixed. The unemployment rate went up to 6.4 percent in May. It dropped slightly, to 6.2 percent, in June -- but only because more and more people have dropped out of the labor force entirely as payrolls continued to shrink. Economic growth came in at 2.4 percent for the second quarter of 2003. That was better than expected, but it needs to hit 4 percent or higher to reduce unemployment. Bush's cheerleaders say that will happen, in well-choreographed fashion, in the election year. But will it? Timing is everything. George Bush the first missed his rendezvous with prosperity in 1992. And the policies of Bush I were not as damaging as those of Bush II. Consider...

Double Standard

Item: The House passes legislation allowing consumers to import cheaper drugs from Canada. Item: IBM plans to move thousands of computer programming jobs to India. Question: Aren't both events logical consequences of globalization of commerce? Answer: Not if you're big business, which loves moving cheap jobs offshore but hates competing with cheaper imported drugs. India symbolizes both sides of this debate. If you get into a conversation with a billing representative of your credit card provider or your phone company, you may notice a faint Indian accent. The services industry is shifting more backroom operations to India, where wages are a fraction of ours. Industry defends these moves as cost-effective and economically sensible. If productive, English-speaking workers in India can perform the jobs, why not move the work there and pass the savings along to shareholders and consumers? Most economists, enthusiasts of free commerce, agree that these shifts help both India and the...

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