Menu

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

Comment: Top-Down Class Warfare

I t is difficult for a liberal to raise concerns about irresponsible corporations without being accused of class warfare. The Wall Street Journal recently ridiculed Al Gore for "schlock populism" and cynical "business-bashing." In truth Gore's criticism is carefully calibrated and directed against assaults that affect the broad middle class. The vice president goes after drug companies for price-gouging, managed care companies for second-guessing doctors, tobacco companies for marketing products to kids, and Hollywood for purveying violence. Most voters agree with Gore. But the vice president hasn't attacked corporations in general. Nor has he addressed America's gross disparities of income and wealth, or the fact that tens of millions of full-time jobs fail to pay a living wage, or the abuses of welfare reform. That brand of class politics takes exceptional political courage because most of America considers itself middle class. The...

Of Our Time: Taking Care of Business

Few trends could so thoroughly undermine the very foundations of our free society as the acceptance by corporate officials of a social responsibility other than to make as much money for their shareholders as possible. —Milton Friedman , Capitalism and Freedom I n a market economy, as Charles E. Lindblom reminded us in Politics and Markets , business holds a position of special privilege. It tends to dominate not just the economy, but the polity and the prevailing ideology. Though business lost some of its luster in the excesses of the 1980s, the pendulum did not swing back toward a national mood of greater public-mindedness as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., had predicted. On the contrary, the prestige of business has come roaring back in the '90s, as the American economy has regained competitive strength globally. The dynamism of business is taken as simple proof of its virtue. Indeed, the last time business enjoyed such general approbation was nearly a lifetime ago—before the great crash...

War Profiteering On Anthrax Meds

Depending on what terrorists do next, America could be on the verge of a public health catastrophe. The administration is moving belatedly to develop stocks of antibiotics to treat anthrax. The government is also looking to procure 300 million doses of smallpox vaccine to inoculate a new generation against a weaponized disease that was wiped out in its natural form two decades ago. It is instructive to look at the role of two key players in this drama: the private drug industry and the public health system. Last week, Bayer, the maker of Cipro, was resisting government efforts to use existing federal authority to order mandatory patent licensing, to enable other labs to manufacture an emergency supply. The generic version of Cipro is easily produced, for a tiny fraction of the $4.50 a dose or $350 per month that Bayer charges. Producers in India sell generic ciprofloxacin for about $10 for a monthly supply, and the drug is also made generically in Spain and Portugal. Curiously,...

If You Took an Airplane Recently, You Know Deregulation's a Loser

If you are like millions of Americans who vacationed this summer, you paid top dollar for airline tickets, had little choice of airline, and were rewarded by long delays. But then, when you landed, you became a sovereign consumer again. You had your choice of car rental companies, hotels, and restaurants. You could shop around for the best prices, carefully measuring price against quality, and exercise real buying power. Indeed, at the very same airport where one or two airlines monopolize routes and disrespect passengers, 10 or 15 auto rental companies, often side by side, compete vigorously and courteously for your business. How it is that car rental companies give you plenty of choice and high quality service, but not airlines? The answer is that airlines are not a naturally competitive industry. They require very expensive capital equipment that needs to fly mostly full to be cost effective. Big airlines have the market power to crush little ones. And airlines depend on public...

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...

Pages