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

After Conservatism

After a decade of conservative rule, a fair tally of claims and achievements yields a mixed picture. The major conservative strength remains foreign policy, where the right takes credit for the collapse of global communism as a military force and of Marxism as an ideal. Liberals are correct to respond that the policy of containment had liberal origins, that communism collapsed more from its own weight than from the Reagan military buildup, that many ancillary foreign policies -- Iran-contra; misjudging Saddam; bungling the trade round -- were debacles. But polls keep showing that conservatives, deservedly or not, win broad support for their foreign policy, of which the Persian Gulf War is only the most recent example. Domestic policy, however, is another story. If the experience of the 1980s does not bring total discredit to the ideological pretensions of the Reagan revolution, it comes close. The right was going to restore growth. The growth rate of the roaring 1980s barely equaled...

The Private Use of Public Life

Last December, a public interest group called the Center for Public Integrity published a unique analysis of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), titled "America's Frontline Trade Officials."* The center used a wide variety of government documents, newsletters, press clips, directories, and other sources to piece together the career paths of mid-level and senior USTR officials. It found that roughly half of recent senior officials subsequently worked as agents of foreign firms or governments. The fraction that left USTR to pursue careers representing other private interests was over 80 percent. Those with major foreign clients included former trade ambassadors of both parties, including Democrat Robert Strauss, whose law firm has represented the People's Republic of China, Fujitsu, and many others, and Republican William Brock, a long-time paid advocate for Toyota. Deputy Trade Representative Julius Katz was simultaneously a paid consultant to USTR and to French, German...

Collateral Damage

War is seldom good for liberalism. The liberal view of international relations tends to emphasize peace through international law, even though the reach of law is weakest across national frontiers, where no sovereignty exists. Liberals also recoil from the plain violence of war. And they often tend to read their own good intentions into the motives and actions of adversaries who have nothing but contempt for liberal norms and values. More pointedly, war tends to undermine the domestic basis of liberal politics. It divides liberals -- from each other and from voters. It consumes resources liberals want to spend on domestic needs. It diverts attention. Liberalism prizes complexity and tolerance. War engenders jingoism and oversimplification, as well as censorship and a retreat from civil liberties. If there are few atheists in foxholes, there are few liberals there either. And, of course, victory vindicates warriors. World War I divided American progressives and short-circuited the era...

Congress Without Cohabitation: The Democrats' Morning-After

On September 30, 1990, after being closeted for weeks at Andrews Air Force Base with White House representatives Richard Darman and John Sununu, Democratic congressional leaders brought back an agreement on the federal budget that the press initially treated as a historic compromise. It was actually an astonishingly Republican document -- and a symbol of how deeply compromised the Democrats had become sharing power with a Republican administration. To slay the deficit, the agreement cut Medicare by $60 billion, limited any peace dividend, blocked new domestic spending, and relied on regressive taxes that would have increased the tax burden of the poorest Americans by 11 percent, the middle class by 3.3 percent, and the richest one percent of Americans by just 1.7 percent. After ten years of deficits and failed supply-side dogma, why had the Democrats continued to accept the hand the Republican White House dealt them? "[Speaker] Tom Foley started off with the premise that if no budget...

Beyond the Guns of August

At this writing, American and Iraqi forces still face each other warily across the Saudi sands. Sooner or later, Iraq will likely have to reverse course. But beyond the question of how and when the immediate military crisis will be resolved, the Iraqi annexation of Kuwait has given momentum to the development of a post-Cold War international system based on collective security. That movement may also help bring about progress toward a regional settlement in the Mideast and a more stable regime for the price and supply of oil. In his address to Congress on September 11, President Bush declared, "We are now in sight of a United Nations that performs as envisioned by its founders." For a decade, the U.N. has been the stepchild of American diplomacy, the object of disuse and scorn. The original vision of collective security, of course, was predicated on a concert of great powers. The U.N. could not function as planned so long as the central geopolitical reality was the rivalry of the two...

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