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

The IMF Breaks with Europe on Greece—About Time!

As I’ve written on several occasions, the only player with the power to alter Europe’s disastrous demands on the long-suffering Greeks is the International Monetary Fund. Yesterday, the IMF acted.

In a stunning rebuke to the Germans and the rest of the sadists leading Europe’s Greek policy, an unnamed senior IMF official yesterday warned that Greece needs massive debt relief, at minimum $85 billion, or its economy will never recover and it will never be able to pay the rest of its debts. This is exactly what European officials have refused to concede.

This welcome and bold IMF stand throws a useful monkey wrench into the humiliating deal extracted over the weekend—especially since the IMF is one of the three entities that is supposed to enforce the deal. Conceivably, if Greece now were to decided to thumb its nose at Germany and the other brutal austerity-masters, the IMF could underwrite an alternative course.

One possibility would be for Greece to leave the euro and return to the drachma—but not as a punishment, as contemplated by the worst of the lot, German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble. Rather, the IMF could provide new aid to Greece to make such a transition a plus for the Greeks by getting Greece out from under German diktats.

This brings the IMF full circle to the role proposed by its leading architect, John Maynard Keynes, when the IMF was created in 1944—to prevent foreign payments difficulties from pushing nations into self-deepening austerity. After a detour into the austerity camp, the IMF is returning to its roots.

Where did this change of heart come from? Economists at the IMF have long chafed at the absurd economic premises of the European leaders. But they key player in this surprise move was the IMF’s biggest shareholder, the United States.

Behind the scenes, the Obama administration and especially Treasury Secretary Jack Lew have been pressing the Germans to give the Greeks more room to breathe—to no avail until now. The IMF move was done with the full knowledge and encouragement of the United States government. Kind of makes you proud to be an American.

This was a good week for President Obama. The IMF move on Greece was overshadowed by the breakthrough in the nuclear talks with Iran. But if this latest IMF play, promoted by Washington, should prove to be a game changer, it will be as important a diplomatic achievement.

Delusion in the Desert

Dispatch from the libertarian FreedomFest convention in Las Vegas. 

AP Photo/John Locher
AP Photo/John Locher Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a news conference at FreedomFest Saturday, July 11, 2015, in Las Vegas. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . L AS VEGAS—I'm here at Planet Hollywood as the token liberal to participate in two debates—one on what is killing the American Dream; the other a mock trial of the Federal Reserve. Paul Krugman is also here, debating the cause and cure of inequality. We're outnumbered about a thousand to one. The annual FreedomFest convention of some 2,000 libertarian conservatives is doubly surreal. What better setting for libertarian dreams than fantastical Las Vegas—the free market as casino, made flesh. Like casino operators, these libertarians live on fantasies. They inhabit an imagined universe where markets never do anything wrong and government never does anything right. This is comforting because it is true by definition and thus resists any evidence to the contrary. Mostly they are very...

An Embarrassment of Riches

The Republican primary is drenched in money from super PACs and billionaire political investors. Could there be a silver lining?

(Photo: AP/Susan Walsh)
(Photo: AP/Susan Walsh) Demonstrators outside the Supreme Court in October 2013 protest weak campaign-finance laws. This article appears in the Summer 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . A s we approach 2016, the Republican Party has the biggest field of presidential contenders ever. This may be due to a bumper crop of potential leaders, but the more plausible explanation is money. Supreme Court decisions have liberated business moguls to invest in politicians, much as they might invest in racehorses, yacht competitions, sports franchises, and, more recently, charter schools. Given the right patron, a remotely plausible politician can become a contender. Scott Walker, as a swing-state governor who faced down public-employee unions, might well have been a strong candidate in any case, but support from the Koch brothers didn’t hurt. And so on down the line, to Ben Carson, Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, et al.—15 at last...

The Joy of No

Greece's rejection of austerity was an important step forward, but it also threw Europe's deep divisions into stark relief.  

The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images
The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images Thousasnds of jubilant government supporters celebrate after the result of the referendum showed the "No,'' majority in Athens, Greece on July 5, 2015. An earlier version of this article appeared at The Huffington Post . T he ‘No’ vote to austerity is a stunning vindication of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s tactical gamble and political savvy. However, the Greeks and the austerity-mongers, most notably in Germany, remain as far apart as ever. The financial press and the European elite played Tsipras’s surprise referendum as reckless and suicidal. Much of the EU establishment was savoring a ‘Yes’ vote, a Tsipras resignation, and a new center-right unity government as enablers of austerity. But Tsipras demonstrated that he has a far surer grasp of his own people than the Berlin-Brussels echo chamber. In the aftermath of the ‘No’ vote, opposition leaders rallied behind Tsipras. The elite press has tended to play this tragedy as a case of Greek...

A Good Week for America

On a number of fronts, real progressive change is on the horizon. 

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin From left, Annie Katz of the University of Michigan, Zaria Cummings of Michigan State University, Spencer Perry of Berkeley, California, and Justin Maffett of Dartmouth University, celebrate outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday June 26, 2015, after the court declared that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the US. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . W hat an extraordinary week in the political and spiritual life of this nation. It was a week in which President Obama found the voice that so many of us hoped we discerned in 2008; a week in which two Justices of the Supreme Court resolved that the legitimacy of the institution and their own legacy as jurists was more important than the narrow partisan agenda that Justices Roberts and Kennedy have so often carried out; a week in which liberals could feel good about ourselves and the haters of the right were thrown seriously off balance. Yet this is one of those...

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