Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, as well as a distinguished senior fellow of the think tank Demos. He was a longtime columnist for Business Week and continues to write columns in The Boston Globe. He is the author of Obama's Challenge and other books.

Recent Articles

Of Our Time: A Pile of Vetoes

M idway through this first year of Republican legislative hegemony, President Clinton has seemingly risen, once again, from the political dead. One cannot yet say the same for the Democratic Party or the cause of liberalism. The Republicans are still very much in charge, with an agenda more stridently radical and more dominant than anything justified by their slender win last November. One prospect is that the Clinton presidency will survive, but in an alliance with a conservative Congress and at the expense of liberalism. Another is that Clinton's attempt at accommodation will fail, and the right will make a clean sweep in 1996. To date, Clinton's posture has been that of Great Conciliator. During Gingrich's giddy Hundred Days, the president kept his head down. He was polite, even deferential to the Republicans, insisting that he wanted to work constructively with the new congressional majority. He was not elected "to produce a pile of vetoes," Clinton declared on several occasions...

Up From 1994

S ince Franklin Roosevelt, the central liberal credo has been the use of government to benefit ordinary people. That premise is now battered--fiscally, politically, ideologically. In 1994, swing voters rejected both the concept and the party of government. The 1994 midterm election is not yet the epochal realignment that prefigures a new governing coalition and a new dominant party. But if Democrats sleep through the wake-up call and Republicans win the White House in 1996, realignment will be complete. Thus the stakes could not be higher for Bill Clinton, and for liberals. Clinton must decide how to use his pulpit: when to conciliate and when to fight; what to jettison and what to defend; where to offer bipartisanship and where to draw partisan distinctions; what mechanisms to signal alliance with disaffected voters, absent the capacity to legislate; how to regain ground in the near term and also build strategically for the long term. Clinton also will have to struggle to regain the...

Comment: Taxing Democracy

G eorge W. Bush may well win a tax program that most voters rejected in the 2000 election. His $1.6 trillion in cuts would favor the richest 1 percent. Public opinion polls confirm that most Americans would rather see the money go for social investments. Our system is ignoring what most Americans want, because of multiple political failures. The most immediate one is the Democrats' failure to function as a cohesive opposition party. A united Democratic caucus might effectively oppose the Bush program by offering a smaller tax cut targeted to working families. Better yet, it might contrast the Bush tax cuts with popular public outlays. Most Democrats support elements of both approaches--but display just enough disunity to give Bush something close to his original plan, with only modest concessions. The more serious systemic failure, of course, is that Bush is in the White House at all. As news organizations complete their Florida recounts, we may well find out that Al Gore in fact won...

Of Our Time: Constraining Capital, Liberating Politics

If, as widely predicted, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) wins the German election in September, there will be center-left governments simultaneously in every major European nation for the first time in history -- in London, Paris, Rome, and Berlin. Of the 15 nations of the European Union, no fewer than 13 will be governed by democratic-left parties. Liberal democrats also occupy the executive branch in Washington and Ottawa. This stunning convergence entails a double irony. Supposedly, this is the supreme capitalist moment. Yet in nation after nation, voters evidently don't like the effects of capitalism in the raw. At the same time, however, it is not at all clear that these very de-radicalized leftists can do much to temper the market. For the most part, their policies are slightly more benign versions of the same neoliberal policies put forth by their center-right predecessors. Indeed, many on the left have moved to the center not so much out of choice or even political tactic,...

Comment: Why Liberals Need Radicals

The demonstrations last November in Seattle and last month in Washington have made some liberals uneasy. For many, the street activity suggests both a rowdiness and a know-nothing attitude toward global commerce. A recent New Republic cover, caricaturing a protester, asks, "Does the New New Left Have a Brain?" I've noticed that my liberal friends divide into two camps: those who posit a Manichaean dividing line between "liberal" and "left," and those who appreciate the necessary role of radicals. I'm with the latter group, though at the end of the day I count myself a liberal. For one thing, nearly every great social justice movement was initiated by radicals before it became safe for liberals. This includes the antislavery movement, women's suffrage, birth control, modern feminism, industrial unionism, civil rights, and the movement against the Vietnam War. Even causes that seem fairly tame today, such as pure food and drugs and safe workplaces, were initially the handiwork of such...

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