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: Surplus Worship

There are two great fiscal legacies of American liberalism since Franklin Roosevelt. One is the invention and broad public acceptance of social insurance—notably Social Security, unemployment compensation, and Medicare. The other is the use of public spending, both to increase human and physical productivity over the long term and for macroeconomic stimulus during recessions. There are of course other activist uses of modern government—to regulate economic inefficiency and to advance social justice—but social insurance and social investment are the two fiscal pillars of modern liberalism. Unfortunately, the Clinton administration, seconded by far too many nominally liberal economists, is needlessly sacrificing the latter to salvage the former. In order to "save Social Security," such conservative conceits as permanent surpluses and the discrediting of public and social investment are suddenly conventional wisdom at the White House. Some of this is merely...

How to Rescue the Economy

The economy now seems headed for serious recession. How to fight a shadowy enemy is necessarily Topic A, but rescuing the economy is not far behind. The economy is plummeting for several interrelated reasons. The stock market was already falling sharply before Sept. 11. The speculative excess of the late 1990s financed trillions of dollars of investments that will never return profits. Once investors grasped that, the market headed south. So this is not just a blow to investor psychology; the economic blow is real. A second source of weakness is consumer spending. Even before Sept. 11, there had been tens of thousands of layoffs and the unemployment rate had risen sharply, to 4.9 percent. Now, several key industries such as insurance, airlines, hotels, and financial services have felt the effects of the attack directly, and consumers are spending less money generally. This intensifies the squeeze on corporate profits and investments. Earlier this year, continued consumer spending,...

Ironically, Gore's Biggest Worry May be About Oil

The record economic boom is near a tipping point. Although no serious inflation is being generated by the sizzling economy, increases in oil prices show up in the general price index. They also worsen America's balance of trade. Meanwhile, the weakness of the euro is depressing profits that American companies earn abroad. On all these counts, the stock market is getting very nervous. A big stock market correction would cool off both consumer and business spending. It might scare off the foreign investors who keep buying our bonds. In this context, a misstep by the inflation-phobic Federal Reserve could help send the economy into deep recession. Al Gore must be praying that the economy holds up until Nov. 7. His friend and mentor Bill Clinton must be using every diplomatic lever to pressure OPEC to open the spigots. Our European allies, faced with consumer revolts over the price of gasoline, are doing likewise. The weakness of...

Let's Have Real Shared Sacrifice

Retailers are not expecting a great Christmas season this year. Shoppers have less money in their pockets and more worries about their economic future. The very act of shop-til-you-drop, always a little bizarre as a form of Yuletide expression, feels especially unseemly in wartime, even when rationalized as a patriotic act of economic stimulus. It is also an odd time for the theme of national unity and shared sacrifice. In the September 11 attacks, several thousand Americans, mostly accidental heroes, made the ultimate sacrifice. Thousands more are fighting in Afghanistan. Sacrifice is also widely unequal on the home front. Those making the biggest sacrifice, like the unsuspecting victims of Sept. 11, are innocent bystanders losing their jobs, or needy people (mostly children) losing vital services to recession budget cuts. Corporations, meanwhile, are lined up for tax cuts. We are all feeling as if we are sacrificing, because we have indeed all given something up: each of us feels...

Low Marx

In The New York Times Magazine for November 28, Jacob Weisberg wrote about "The Rehabilitation of Joe McCarthy." The article partly drew on (and credited) Joshua Marshall's earlier American Prospect article "Exhuming McCarthy" [March/April 1999]. Weisberg depicted the endless rehashing of who was right about communism as a kind of family co-dependency among leftists and ex-leftists. The latter use their own belated discovery that communism really was an evil empire to impeach liberals. But as Weisberg (and Marshall) observed, the American intellectuals who got communism right all along were liberal anticommunists like Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Reinhold Niebuhr, and George Kennan, who recognized that to be staunchly anticommunist, you needn't be a McCarthyite. Speaking of co-dependency, The New Republic savaged Weisberg from the right, while The Nation fretted from the left. TNR fulminated, "For Weisberg, the anti-communists have nothing more to teach....But...

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