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

Thank You, Al Gore

A funny thing happened to Al Gore on the way to his surprisingly effective acceptance speech. He became a liberal. The speech was as liberal as anything FDR or LBJ or Jesse Jackson or one of the Kennedys might have delivered. It was built around a commitment to fight for ordinary people, against large and powerful interests. This, of course, is precisely what made it effective. The emotional heart of the speech, Gore's honoring of four ordinary American lives, did not just salute the struggles of workaday families, the way Ronald Reagan often did. It identified who was dishonoring their struggles - corporations. He singled out heartless HMOs who pressure a family to sacrifice a child; drug companies that force a pensioner to choose between food and medicine; corporate polluters; corporations that pay workers inadequate wages. And he identified the solution: strong, reliable public Social Security; better Medicare; welfare reform that rewards work rather than punishing the needy;...

Comment: The McCain Mutiny

O n most issues, Republican legislators have presented a solid phalanx to give the Bush administration whatever it wants. The exception is campaign finance reform--and the chink in the Republican armor is Arizona Senator John McCain. Should Democrats be cheered? The answer is a qualified yes. For starters, the reform coalition is mostly McCain plus Democrats. The Democrats are thus identified with an overdue set of popular reforms, while George W. Bush, who won election on a tide of unlimited corporate money, is identified with business as usual. The bad news is that the McCain-Feingold bill keeps getting watered down, and it was less than revolutionary to begin with. In the end, Bush will probably sign it, less because he was out strategized and outvoted than because the bill won't make that much difference. The McCain-Feingold bill is necessary because of the collapse of the post-Watergate system of reforms. This legislation, enacted in 1974, was intended to constrain both...

Comment: Taking It with You

A s Sheldon Pollack writes in this issue ["It's Alive," page 29], Republicans in Congress are close to killing the estate tax. Some remnant will survive, but it could be significantly cut, and with the collusion of many Democrats. Why get rid of a tax paid only by the richest 1 percent of Americans? Why scrap our only wealth tax, one that accounted for $28 billion dollars of revenue in 1999? You can understand why Republicans favor repeal, but why do numerous Democrats follow suit? The answer, in brief, is campaign finance. Only half of 1 percent of voters contribute more than $250 to political candidates. But these are the people that candidates hang out with--and of course these are the people with estates large enough to pay tax. Only in this crowd is $28 billion of federal revenue chump change. As Pollack points out, the lost revenue gradually rises to over $50 billion a year. That kind of money could buy prescription drug coverage for the...

Comment: Top-Down Class Warfare

I t is difficult for a liberal to raise concerns about irresponsible corporations without being accused of class warfare. The Wall Street Journal recently ridiculed Al Gore for "schlock populism" and cynical "business-bashing." In truth Gore's criticism is carefully calibrated and directed against assaults that affect the broad middle class. The vice president goes after drug companies for price-gouging, managed care companies for second-guessing doctors, tobacco companies for marketing products to kids, and Hollywood for purveying violence. Most voters agree with Gore. But the vice president hasn't attacked corporations in general. Nor has he addressed America's gross disparities of income and wealth, or the fact that tens of millions of full-time jobs fail to pay a living wage, or the abuses of welfare reform. That brand of class politics takes exceptional political courage because most of America considers itself middle class. The...

Of Our Time: Taking Care of Business

Few trends could so thoroughly undermine the very foundations of our free society as the acceptance by corporate officials of a social responsibility other than to make as much money for their shareholders as possible. —Milton Friedman , Capitalism and Freedom I n a market economy, as Charles E. Lindblom reminded us in Politics and Markets , business holds a position of special privilege. It tends to dominate not just the economy, but the polity and the prevailing ideology. Though business lost some of its luster in the excesses of the 1980s, the pendulum did not swing back toward a national mood of greater public-mindedness as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., had predicted. On the contrary, the prestige of business has come roaring back in the '90s, as the American economy has regained competitive strength globally. The dynamism of business is taken as simple proof of its virtue. Indeed, the last time business enjoyed such general approbation was nearly a lifetime ago—before the great crash...

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