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

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...

Disloyal Subjects

Has the Bush presidency reached a tipping point? His popularity ratings have dipped below 50 percent. His policies are under fire on the Iraq War, the economy and the budget mess. Even more interestingly, President Bush is facing an escalating revolt from within his own party. A little-noted indicator is that Republican senators and House members are no longer willing to take unpopular votes merely because the White House demands them. Lately, the administration has lost several key votes that were billed as Republican tests of loyalty: • Moderate GOP legislators defected on administration plans to privatize air traffic controllers and make special security training for flight attendants optional. This week, embarrassed Republican floor leaders in the House will send the bill back to committee rather than lose a floor vote. • Republican House leaders had to pull one administration bill allowing "comp time" as an alternative to overtime pay. A majority of senators blocked a second...

Inside Out

Dick Grasso is gone as chief of the New York Stock Exchange, but the system of super-enrichment for insiders lives on. The NYSE's new chief, former Citicorp co-chair John S. Reed, has little experience in stock trading and even less as a reformer. But in this sorry mess, he passes for a clean broom. The recent financial scandals -- from Enron to WorldCom to Arthur Andersen to Merrill Lynch and now to the epitome of capitalism itself -- have had one thing in common. The insiders at the very top contrived ways to take astronomical amounts of money for themselves, eluding the supposed forms of accountability, because the self-regulators were on the take, too. Were it not for two fortuitous accidents, Grasso might have happily continued. First, he very foolishly decided to cash $140 million in deferred compensation, which shone an unwelcome spotlight on his deal. Second, William Donaldson, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, happened to be former head of the New York Stock...

Laissez Contraire

What should we think of a developing country that protected its young industries with high tariffs, stole technologies from established nations, used government aid to develop manufacturing and farming, limited foreign ownership of land, devalued its money in defiance of international wishes, imposed currency controls, and even allowed secessionist provinces to default on foreign debt? The country would probably be read out of the World Trade Organization and blacklisted by the International Monetary Fund. Well, the country in question is the United States of America at earlier stages of our development. Other advanced economies, including France, Germany, Korea and Japan, did much the same things. Mercifully, there was no IMF or WTO to retaliate. And it worked out pretty well. Now, however, we deny these tools to today's poor nations. We want them to fling open their borders to foreign private capital, renounce state development aids, balance budgets and conform to our other current...

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