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

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

The budget rebellion in October seemingly ended Congress’s long night of unholy cohabitation with the Reagan and Bush administrations. But can the Democrats really get out of bed?

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...

China Fallout

W ill the Democratic Party's divisions over the China/ WTO vote prove fatal? For the sputtering Gore campaign, the timing could hardly be worse. The scenario recalls the 1994 NAFTA split prefiguring the party's defeat in the 1994 midterm elections. In both cases, President Clinton depended heavily on Republican allies to win an agenda shaped by global business and opposed by labor and most Democratic congressmen. In both cases, the fight left a bitter taste and diverted precious resources and passions needed for November. This time, the stakes are higher: not just Congress, but the presidency. Now, the labor movement is more powerful politically. As many as three major unions--the Auto Workers, Steelworkers, and Teamsters--may sit on their hands or even endorse a third-party candidate. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney hopes to quickly switch gears and convert the labor movement into a general election machine for Al Gore. But having defined regulation of global commerce as its top...

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