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

Prescription for Failure

Prescription drug benefits are shaping up as one of the defining issues in this fall's campaign. Drugs are now the fastest-growing component of medical care. Elderly people spend more on drugs than on doctor bills. HMOs are squeezing other kinds of care because of their own rising drug costs. There are really two big questions here: Should more Americans get more drug coverage, and should government play a direct role in limiting drug prices? The reasonable answer to both questions is a resounding yes. Medicare does not cover prescription drugs. Private supplemental Medigap policies are available, but the ones with good coverage cost hundreds of dollars a month. Some HMOs offer Medicare recipients drug coverage via managed care plans, but they are finding it ever harder to make money on Medicare patients, and millions of patients have been dropped. Ever since Medicare was enacted in 1965, drug companies have resisted adding full drug...

News Pollution

Readers of the Sunday New York Times Magazine were treated on April 1 to an extensive advertising supplement on allergies and asthma. The supplement ran from page 30 to page 42, with regular Times Magazine page numbering. The ostensible news copy was prepared by an outside agency; the section carried the disclaimer, in small type, that it was not based on reporting or editing by the Times. Advertising supplements are not new. But there should be decent limits, especially at quality papers like the Times. This supplement was designed for drug company advertising of allergy and asthma products. It included an ad for Aventis Pharmaceuticals' Allegra, one for GlaxoWellcome's Flonaze, and a four-page spread by Pfizer. Dozens of other products were plugged repeatedly in the advertorial's pseudo-news copy. Despite the section's title, "From Cause to Cure," there was nothing about cause. The several "news" articles did not address why asthma and allergies have reached epidemic proportions...

Comment: Budget with Care

I recently proposed that instead of getting rid of what the Bush people call the death tax we abolish the "pre-death tax." This term, coined by my friend Michael Lipsky, refers to the Medicaid provision that requires people to spend down their personal assets on nursing-home care before Medicaid starts paying the cost. Medicaid is a means-tested program for poor people. The premise of current policy is that middle-class people who need long-term care must first impoverish themselves and then qualify for Medicaid as medical paupers. The exemption on the estate tax, currently $675,000, will rise to $1 million by the year 2006 under existing law. That's why it's a tax on only the wealthiest 2 percent of estates. But the Medicaid spend-down has no such exemption. Public policy takes away almost every nickel; and God help you if you somehow come out of the nursing home and then have to make ends meet. By one of those splendid coincidences, middle-class Americans "spend down" about $30...

Vigilance Needed as Cold War II Grips U.S.

Recently, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman christened the war aganst terrorism World War III. But that's too apocalyptic. A better name would be Cold War II. The first Cold War was ''a prolonged twilight struggle,'' in George Kennan's famous phrase. It was punctuated with periods of hot war, in Korea and in Vietnam. But for the most part it lived up to its name - an uneasy armed peace with jittery alerts, cloak and dagger operations, and proxy skirmishes between client states. The first Cold War also had its benefits. It stimulated myriad technological advances. Government was allowed to do things in the name of fighting the Soviets that many Americans might otherwise not have approved. These included a massive interstate highway program, the National Defense Highway Act, a federal program to promote higher education, the National Defense Education Act, as well as advances in public health and civil rights. If we were fighting a global enemy that preached brotherhood, it...

Bush's Troubling Medicare Plan

George W. Bush has at last revealed the outline of his Medicare/drug benefit plan. One is reminded of Anatole France's famous line that "the law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges." Governor Bush's plan allows the poor as well as the rich to choose to pay high premiums for prescription drug coverage (or to choose instead, say, to eat). What Bush's plan does not do is to guarantee basic drug coverage to everybody. Gore's doesn't quite achieve that either, but it comes a lot closer and does so without dismantling Medicare. Bush's drug plan is wrapped in a fundamental privatization of Medicare, which would turn most of the program over to managed-care companies. He depicts this as free choice for consumers, versus the more bureaucratic approach sponsored by Gore and the Democrats. But what Bush calls bureaucratic actually equals free choice, and what he calls private equals limited choices. In the...

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