Robert Kuttner

Women as the Loyal Opposition

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Senator Elizabeth Warren, and then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Senator John Kerry's nomination to be secretary of state on January 24, 2014. A version of this article first appeared at The Huffington Post . L ong ago, when I began writing newspaper columns, a wise editor advised me that a column is about one thing. I am about to violate that rule. This piece is about three different things (which are connected if you look hard). One is a 25th anniversary; the second is some Mother's Day musings; the third is the latest in a string of losses for the left, namely the trouncing of the British Labour Party in Thursday's election. Let me explain. In 1990, Robert Reich, Paul Starr and I founded a new progressive magazine, The American Prospect , to try to breathe some intellectual spirit and political backbone into American liberalism. At the time, liberals were getting whacked both by...

Some More Radical Ideas for Hillary Clinton

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during the sixth annual Women in the World Summit, Thursday, April 23, 2015, in New York. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . I am going to periodically suggest ideas that Hillary Clinton might consider—both to establish that she is a real-deal progressive and to rally political support from voters whom the economy is leaving behind. Clinton might even outflank some leading progressives by going beyond what is considered politically safe in the current environment. Another name for that is leadership. So if Hillary wants to show that she's a fighter, let her pick some good fights. Control Drug Costs. On Thursday, Medicare released a detailed breakdown of the staggering costs paid for drugs prescribed under Medicare Part D. That's the privatized prescription drug insurance program sponsored by the Bush administration in 2003 as a gift to the drug and insurance industries, taking advantage of Medicare's good...

A Test for Hillary Clinton: Obama's Trade Deals

(White House photo/ Public Domain via Flickr)
(Official White House Photo via Flickr) President Barack Obama delivers remarks with then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (left) at the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue reception at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on June 3, 2010. O pposition to the Obama administration's proposed major trade deals is getting firmer among Democrats in Congress. Both chambers must approve trade promotion authority, better known as fast-track, in order for the deals to move forward. One Democrat who has avoided taking a position is Hillary Clinton. In the past, she has supported deals like the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but lately she has tried to give herself some wiggle room without opposing fast-track, saying last Tuesday that any agreement has to create jobs, as well as increase prosperity, and improve security. That's pretty amorphous. Clinton, of course, does not get to vote on the measure because she is no longer a senator. But pressure is increasing from...

Our Corporate Saviors

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File) In this March 31, 2015 file photo, people participate in rally in front of a McDonald's restaurant in New York. A pay bump for workers at some McDonald's restaurants, announced Wednesday, April 1, 2015, isn't likely to ease the pressures the chain is facing over labor issues. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . W hat are we to make of the fact that some big corporations are turning out to be the relative good guys, on issues as varied as same-sex marriage, the environment and even (to a limited extent) workers' wages? Last week, the governors of Indiana and Arkansas were forced to back down and dilute bogus "religious freedom" laws intended to shelter discrimination against gays and lesbians, in large part because their corporate bigwigs told them to stop embarrassing the state and scaring off business. In Indiana, these included the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, the Indiana Pacers, and even the Indy 500. In Arkansas, the pressure...

7 Reasons Why the 99 Percent Keeps Losing

iStockPhoto/© porcorex
iStockPhoto/© porcorex This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post . O ur current political situation is unprecedented. The vast majority of Americans keep falling behind economically because of changes in society's ground rules, while the rich get even richer—yet this situation doesn't translate into a winning politics. If anything, the right keeps gaining and the wealthy keep pulling away. How can this possibly be? Let me suggest seven reasons: 1. The Discrediting of Politics Itself The Republican Party has devised a strategy of hamstringing government and making any remediation impossible. Instead of the voters punishing Republicans, the result is cynicism and passivity, so the Republican strategy is vindicated and rewarded. The media plays into this pattern by adopting a misleading narrative that makes the gridlock in Washington roughly the equal fault of both parties—with lazy phrases such as "Washington is broken," or "politics is broken," or "partisan bickering." (...

The Dance of Liberals and Radicals

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo) U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, right, talks with civil rights leaders in his White House office in Washington, D.C., January 18, 1964. The movement leaders, from left, are, Roy Wilkins, executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); James Farmer, national director of the Committee on Racial Equality; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and Whitney Young, executive director of the Urban League. This essay originally appeared at The Huffington Post . M arch 15 was the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson's best speech, his "We Shall Overcome" address applying the final round of pressure on Congress to enact the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Much of the speech invoked the bravery, dignity and historical rightness of Martin Luther King, Jr., and his fellow movement activists. All of which puts me in mind of the complex relationship between liberals and radicals. History shows that liberals...

Will the Fed Kill the Recovery Again?

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons/AgnosticPreachersKid)
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons/AgnosticPreachersKid) The Marriner S. Eccles Federal Reserve Board Building in Washington, D.C. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . T he Labor Department reported that the economy added 295,000 payroll jobs in February, the 12th straight month of job creation of better than 200,000 a month. And the Dow Jones Industrial Average promptly dropped by nearly 300 points. What gives? Do capitalists hate workers? Well, perhaps; but the immediate explanation is concern about the Federal Reserve. If unemployment keeps falling, the Fed is more likely to raise interest rates. And if the Fed raises rates, that's bad for the stock market because bonds start to be a better investment than stocks; and the expectation of flat or declining stock prices feeds on itself and sets off a wave of stock-selling. Supposedly, the assumption that the Fed will raise rates in the not-too-far-distant future has been already "priced in" to share prices. But that's...

Can Liberal Democracy Survive?

Architect of the Capitol
Architect of the Capitol This article appears in the Winter 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . I n 1932, on the eve of FDR’s presidency, Benito Mussolini proclaimed, “The liberal state is destined to perish.” He added, all too accurately, “All the political experiments of our day are anti-liberal.” The democracies were doomed, Il Duce declared, because they could not solve crucial problems. Unlike the dictatorships, which were willing to forcefully use a strong state, the democracies could not fix their broken economies. Parliamentary systems were hamstrung politically. The democracies were also war-weary, conflict-averse, and ill-prepared to fight. The fascists, unlike the democracies, had solved the problem of who was part of the community. Mussolini’s ally, Adolf Hitler, was further contemptuous of “mongrelization” in American democracy. Who was an American? How did immigrants fit in? What about Negroes? The fascist states, by contrast, rallied their...

National Security and the 2016 Election

(Photo: Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv)
(Photo: Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv) Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in Israel in November 2012. This article originally appeared at the Huffington Post . Y ou may recall a campus slogan from another era, "Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Western civ. has got to go." That was at Stanford University in 1987, part of a wave of demands to limit traditional courses featuring dead white males, in favor of cultural pluralism. Sure enough, many colleges a generation later have more varied courses. Today, however, there are people out there who feel that western civilization really does have to go — not the courses but the thing itself. And they seem to be gaining. Call me sentimental, call me privileged, but I have a certain fondness for western civilization. Let me count the ways. I like the rule of law. I like the Enlightenment sensibility that a wide variety of religions and viewpoints must be accommodated. I like the connection of free speech and free inquiry to the scientific...

Will E.U. Leaders Wreck Europe’s Economy to Teach Greece a Lesson?

(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) Pro-government protesters passes in from of a banner outside Greece's parliament to support the newly elected government’s push for a better deal on Greece’s debt, in central Athens, on Sunday, February 15, 2015. The protests held in Athens by around fifteen thousands supporters of the left-wing Syriza party as the new Greek government on Monday, February 16, presented its proposals to skeptical rescue lenders at a euro zone finance ministers' meeting in Brussels. G reece and the European Union are now in a final showdown. And if you had to place odds, the likelihood is that the stubbornness and folly of Europe’s senior leaders will create a catastrophe for both Greece and the E.U. On Monday, at a key meeting of finance ministers in Brussels, the Greek negotiators walked away from a demand that Greece recommit to the terms of the current austerity program as the precondition for extending talks on possible easing of the terms. In return, E.U. leaders had...

Will the Recovery Finally Translate into Better Wages?

(iStockPhoto/© JLGutierrez)
whitehouse.gov Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen and President Barack Obama. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . T he good news about the economy's improved job creation dominated the weekend's headlines. Many commentators concluded that the economy is finally shaking off the effects of the financial collapse of 2008 and the long period of stagnation that followed. The creation of 257,000 new jobs in January is surely good news, as is the long-awaited increase in wages, reported at half of one percent in that month. Even so, the one-year increase in wages has been only 2.2 percent, barely more than 1 percent when adjusted for inflation, and it's been a long time since most workers have seen substantial raises. In this recovery, the economy has been creating more low-wage jobs than high-wage ones. The shift from standard payroll jobs to temp and contract work continues. The uptick in the measured unemployment rate, from 5.6 percent to 5.7 percent, suggests...

We're Jailing the Wrong People. We Need to Jail More of the Right Ones: Corporate Criminals

iStockPhoto/© pkline
(Photo illustration @pkline/iStockPhoto) This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post under the title, "We Should Send More People to Jail." Y ou know the statistic. We incarcerate a higher proportion of the population than any other country does. Russia and South Africa rank respectively second and third. Hundreds of thousands of young, now aging, men, are doing hard time for possession of small amounts of drugs. More and more people find themselves in jail because they got caught with bench warrants for their arrest for exorbitant fines they could not afford to pay. More than a century after debtors prisons were abolished, thousands are again behind bars because of debts. But one category of felon is free on the street. I refer, of course, to corporate criminals. Consider the case of a checkout clerk at Walmart who puts her hands in the till and walks off with a couple of hundred bucks of the company's money. That clerk could expect to face prosecution and jail. Now...

Are the Elites Catching Up with the People?

(Rex Features via AP Images)
I nequality has at last arrived as the issue that mainstream politicians can’t ignore. You see it in Obama’s better-late-than-never embrace of “middle-class economics” as the signature theme in his State of the Union address; and in a surprisingly leftish report of a commission co-chaired by former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. The new report by the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity , convened by the Center for American Progress, is frank in its acknowledgment of the inequality crisis. “Today, the ability of free-market democracies to deliver widely shared increases in prosperity is in question as never before,” the report declares. It calls for several measures of the sort that the labor movement, the Economic Policy Institute, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and others on the left edge of Democratic politics have been urging for years. What’s surprising is not what’s being said but who’s saying it. For instance, the commission offers a frank statement of what’s wrong with...

A Break In the Greek Tragedy

(Tsipras at podium: AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File) (Tsipras on Election Day: AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File) Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the Syriza left-wing party, speaks to his supporters outside Athens University Headquarters on Sunday, January 25, 2015. A triumphant Tsipras told Greeks that his party's win in Sunday's early general election meant an end to austerity and humiliation, and that the country's regular and often fraught debt inspections were a thing of the past. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . E urope should count itself lucky that a left-wing anti-austerity party won the Greek elections, swept into office by citizens who've had enough. Elsewhere in Europe, seven years of stupid, punitive, and self-defeating austerity policies have led to gains by the far right. If a radical left party is now in power in Athens and sending tremors through Europe's financial markets, the E.U.'s smug leaders and their banker allies in Frankfurt, Brussels and Berlin have only themselves to blame. Alexis Tsipras, leader of the...

The Politics of Gesture

(AP Photo/Mandel Ngan, Pool)
(AP Photo/Mandel Ngan, Pool) President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Janunary 20, 2015, in Washington. A version of this article first appeared at The Huffington Post . I f Tuesday's State of the Union address told us anything, it's this: We are seeing a somewhat bolder Barack Obama. In his speech, the president unveiled a litany of what he calls "fourth-quarter initiatives." Some of these can be accomplished by executive order; most will require legislation. The measures that can be achieved by presidential order include reducing the down-payment or interest on federally insured mortgages to stimulate home ownership. Obama has already used his executive power to suspend deportation of some 5 million undocumented Dreamers and in some cases their parents. He has required federal contractors to pay something closer to a living wage. He recently ordered federal agencies to give new parents up to six weeks...

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