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

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...

Comment: Is Bradley for Real?

We've gotten our hearts broken before. Clinton, many of us hoped, was really a closet progressive who somehow also attracted moderates. His fellow southern governor, Jimmy Carter, looked to be a fine reformer for the post-Watergate era. But both presidents left legacies more conservative than liberal. Both were anti-party men. Both failed to use their high office to enhance credibility in government, the Democratic Party, or the liberal cause. Now comes the moderately liberal former senator from New Jersey, seeming to outflank Al Gore on both ends. Bradley is rather to Gore's left with his calls to end child poverty and extend health coverage. Yet Bradley also has great appeal to independents and even to Republicans. Is this Clinton all over again, a politician who is all things to all people? Or something more hopeful? Is Bill Bradley for real? A bit warily, I think he is. Following him around Massachusetts and New Hampshire in early November, I noticed several encouraging things...

A More Truthful Use of Political Props

It was Ronald Reagan, that old trouper, who first started using as human props ordinary Americans who would supposedly benefit from administration policies. We became accustomed to seeing John and Mary Doe, the putative beneficiaries of tax cuts and regulatory guttings, seated in the gallery at State of the Union addresses and other political events. Reagan also liked to identify himself with everyday heroes, who were regularly invited to White House affairs. Christa McAuliffe, the schoolteacher who tragically died in the 1986 Challenger explosion, gave her life because the Reagan administration needed an education prop. At the time, the administration was under fire for big cuts in federal school funding. Sending a teacher into space, supposedly to perform educational experiments, was mainly a public relations gimmick to divert attention from the administration's actual policies and associate Reagan in the public mind with teaching. Despite occasional setbacks, the use of human props...

Democrats, Block Those Bush Appointees

Republicans now control the executive and legislative branches of government and are aiming for a lock on the third branch, the federal courts. All that stands in their way are 50 Democratic senators, 40 of whom can mount a filibuster. But will the Democrats be as unified and as tough as the Republicans? We will get a preview of the Democrats' resolve when the Senate takes up the nomination of Ted Olson as solicitor general. Olson, who was less than candid with the Senate Judiciary Committee about his role in the Clinton-bashing Arkansas Project, would be the most partisan solicitor general ever. Orrin Hatch, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, now wants to make it harder for home state senators to delay court nominations with so-called blue slips. Coincidentally, it was Hatch, in 1995, who hardened the blue-slip policy to allow a single senator to block a nomination indefinitely. Republicans used this system to block dozens of Clinton nominations, which were...

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