Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, a professor at Brandeis University's Heller School, and 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

Getting Over The Lock Box

For six decades, Democrats have been proud defenders of America's most popular government program, Social Security. But the debate is now becoming so muddled that when the dust settles, Social Security may well end up partly privatized with George W. Bush getting credit for saving it. How could this have happened? Twenty years ago, it became clear that Social Security needed adjustment because people were living longer. Unlike a private retirement account, Social Security keeps sending the checks as long as you live. In 1983, Congress slightly raised both taxes and the retirement age. It also adjusted the cost-of-living formula. These changes deliberately caused Social Security to take in more money than it paid out, through about 2013. This was done to bank reserves so that the system could keep paying full benefits when the baby-boom generation retires. Then the system will need to tap those reserves. These modifications will keep the system solvent until the 2030s. What then? There...

Gore's Gamble With Lieberman

Jewish immigrants to America used to respond anxiously to any major public news event by asking: Is it good for the Jews? Al Gore's embrace of Joe Lieberman invites a new twist: Is it good for the Democrats? I'm torn. On the one hand, Gore's choice signals boldness. And it could give America an elevated debate about religious tolerance of the sort we haven't seen since John Kennedy and maybe since Thomas Jefferson. On the other hand, it could inflame American tribalism. And the designation ofthe centrist Lieberman, quite apart from his religion, kisses off the Democratic party's liberal and trade union base. Now the liberal on the ticket, relatively, is Gore. The more hopeful scenario goes something like this: Not only does Lieberman make it much harder for Republicans to rail against the amorality of ''Clinton-Gore.'' But who better than an orthodox Jew to trip up the fundamentalist right? Moral Majority types think they have a monopoly on...

Bush Is Playing With Religious Fire

Does George W. Bush appreciate what fire he is playing with when he stirs up the religious right? It is almost as if we are on the road to religious war. In so many corners of the globe, people are brutalizing their neighbors because each is convinced that he has a direct pipeline to the true deity, while the outsider is a dangerous infidel. Whether in the Middle East, or Ireland, Iran or Afghanistan, state-fomented religious intolerance is the great blight on the right of ordinary people to live as they choose, as well as a grave threat to the peace. Colleague James Carroll's recent best-selling book, ''Constantine's Sword,'' recounted the appalling history of how militant Christians slaughtered millions of outsiders, in the name of the healing word of Jesus of Nazareth. As we see from the seemingly insoluble conflicts in Ireland and Israel, religious difference quickly degenerates into tribalism. The conflicts have long since ceased to be about the correct form of worship, but about...

Comment: The Great Obfuscator

P resident Bush's heavily choreographed decision to support "limited" stem cell research generated the desired headlines and TV commentary. He had anguished over the decision, we were told, and navigated a prudent course between zealous scientists who would play God and zealous traditionalists who claim a pipeline to God. Under Bush's guidelines, stem cell research can qualify for federal funding if it involves existing "lines" of privately developed embryonic stem cells. Others could not, but the harvesting of stem cells from human embryos can continue with private funding. Bush had carefully chosen a middle ground between, as he put it, the good and the good. This construct is, of course, nonsense. Bush has essentially let science policy be dictated by fundamentalist Protestant views about when life begins. (The Catholic hierarchy, which consistently opposes trifling with embryos under whatever auspices, lent cover to Bush's middle-ground charade by helpfully opposing his policy.)...

Comment: The Stakes

One of the many depressing things about the 2000 election has been the tactical blurring of principled differences. Al Gore is for patients' rights? So is George W. Bush. Gore has a plan for prescription drug coverage. Bush does, too. Gore would allocate trillions to Social Security. Likewise Bush. Never mind that Gore's plans are closer to the genuine article. Most voters pay attention only to the headlines. The details are numbing. Bush gets away with seeming to be for popular Democratic positions that most of his party opposes. What the headline promises, the details take back. But the headline is sufficient to steal Gore's thunder. Of course, Gore plays the same game. Bush believes in tax cuts. So Gore has tax cuts, too. The Republicans favor smaller government. Gore boasts about how much government has been cut since 1993. Republicans have family, faith, and Jesus. Democrats trump them with Joe Lieberman and the Big Guy. If all this meant there really were...

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