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

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'...

Stunted Growth

The economy grew at a sizzling 7.2 percent last quarter, surprising many analysts. If this performance continues, it's good news for the Bush administration -- and the opposition Democrats will stop talking about the economy. But before Bush and company declare "economic mission accomplished," consider two problems. First, the benefits of the growth are not trickling down. Second, a high growth rate built on Bush's policies is unsustainable. Even with the highest growth rate since the mid-1980s, the economy shed another 41,000 jobs in the third quarter and has lost 2.7 million jobs since Bush took office. Second, a boom with deficits this huge eventually pushes up interest rates and is thus self-extinguishing. Curiously, only about one-fifth of the quarter's high growth rate has resulted from the deficits. Most of it reflects low interest rates and consumer borrowing and spending. It's sensible to run big deficits in the short run to help kick-start a flat economy. This year's deficit...

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