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

Comment: Free Fall

I t is hard to believe that the Bush administration could be in so much trouble on so many fronts. Just in the past few weeks, Bush has found himself politically isolated on the issues of stem cell research, offshore oil drilling, prescription benefits under Medicare, patients' rights, access to the United States for Mexican trucks, new "fast track" trade authority, taxpayer aid to religious institutions, and Social Security. When two honest congressmen, Republican Jim Kolbe of Arizona and Democrat Charlie Stenholm of Texas, translated Bush's Social Security program into legislation, the consequences became awkwardly palpable. The measure proposed diverting part of the payroll tax to private accounts. Recognizing the fiscal consequences of this shift, the bill's drafters also proposed delaying the retirement age and trimming Social Security checks. Republicans ran for cover by the dozens. The Republican House Speaker, Dennis Hastert, quickly opposed the bill. Even the White House...

Comment: Diminished Expectations

One of my New Year's resolutions was to clean out my study. I am something of a pack rat. I have research files on every book and major article I've written going back to the 1970s, mostly sorted by topic. Throwing away outdated material under such headings as "budget," "unemployment," "savings rate," and "inflation," I realized just how miscast were so many of the assumptions and policy debates of the century's closing decades. For instance, I have a shelfful of stuff slugged "competitiveness"--ponderous reports from think tanks, transcripts from congressional hearings, clippings, books. America was said to have a "competitiveness" problem, remember? Join the conversation! Discuss this article in Political Prospects , part of The American Prospect's Online Forums . The right had a story. America was not "competitive" because of excess regulation, high taxes on capital, low rates of private...

Comment: Boom Box

This month, the economic boom enters its 107th month, making it the longest expansion in U.S. history. But there are now two small clouds on the economic horizon. With the economy having grown in the fourth quarter of 1999 not at the 3- or even 4-percent annual rate that most economists now consider sustainable, but at 5.8 percent, the Federal Reserve will try to temper the economy's growth. And just to give the Fed ammunition, the oil exporting countries have lately succeeded in restricting output and raising the price of crude oil, which filters through to the measured rate of inflation. Nothing scares central bankers like inflation, never mind whether it has any connection to domestic economic "overheating." The growth rate has soared to levels not seen since the 1960s because the new economy really is new. Technology that took more than two decades to gestate is finally bearing fruit in higher productivity, in applications as diverse as retail sales,...

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...

Comment: Speed Bumps

W ill the economic expansion just keep rolling on? Probably not. The economy has certainly demonstrated that it can sustain higher rates of growth than most economists thought possible. This higher speed limit is one part technology, one part greater competition, and one part belated recognition that the earlier pessimism about the economy's potential was wrong. The economy could well have achieved somewhat higher growth and fuller employment without inflation all along. Even so, that doesn't mean we'll never have another recession. The entire history of industrial capitalism is one of unexpected shocks. These setbacks have often been compounded by bad policy. Most recent recessions have resulted from the Federal Reserve overreacting to inflationary pressures or using the wrong tools. The current Fed chairman, Alan Greenspan, has been less inflation-phobic than most of his predecessors. But Greenspan is now playing a very risky game, tightening money even while inflationary pressures...

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