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: Lose that Eyeshade

S enate Democratic leaders, stung by criticism that they have failed to challenge the Bush administration's assault on civil liberties, are taking comfort from their goal-line stand against the latest round of proposed tax cuts. Yet as we approach the 2002 off-year elections, the Democrats could easily repeat the mistakes of the Clinton era by trying to make fiscal rectitude their mantra. The other day, White House budget director Mitch Daniels told Congress that he expected the budget to be in deficit for the next three years. That admission ought to whet Democrats' appetite for repealing Bush's $1.35-trillion tax cut. However, far too many Democrats are reverting to an old, discredited playbook. In 1998, Bill Clinton worried that endless surpluses would lead to Republican tax cuts. So he declared that fiscal policy should "Save Social Security First." Depending on what sort of gloomy accounting you used, Social Security could be shown to be so far in the red that it could soak up...

Comment: Happier Prospects

A s we go to press, the prospect of Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords switching parties has cheered despondent Democrats. However, it's not clear where a party-switch free-for-all would end, since several maverick senators in both parties would be in play. Of course, having Tom Daschle as majority leader, and having the power to orchestrate hearings, could be very important for Democrats, in setting agendas, exposing abuses, blocking extremist nominees, and restoring morale and momentum. Loss of the Senate would be a personal as well as a philosophical rebuke to Bush, and a broader warning to the White House about the risks of overreaching. But before we break out the champagne, remember that four or five Senate Democrats still seem inclined to vote with Bush, and Jeffords doesn't change that. The fact remains that Democrats, hobbled by defectors in their own ranks, are still fighting mostly a rearguard action. There is no coherent alternative program rousing popular excitement, and a...

Comment: Love-Hate Relationship

With the possible exception of Lyndon Johnson, no modern Democratic president has divided his own core constituency more bitterly than William Jefferson Clinton. The conversation between Clinton's loyalists and critics, some of it published in these pages, often reads like a dialogue of the deaf. About the only thought both camps share is that Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky was not helpful--and that may actually be wrong. The loyalists think the critics are giving short shrift to Clinton's genuine accomplishments in arduous times. The critics fault Clinton for turning expediency into principle, pushing politics farther to the right than circumstances required. Join the conversation! Discuss this article in Political Prospects , part of The American Prospect's Online Forums . The loyalists' litany goes something like this: Clinton freed Democrats of the unfortunate legacy of a party that was seen as soft on crime and welfare dependency, beholden to narrow interest groups,...

Comment: Bush, Whacked

G eorge W. Bush is losing his working majority in Congress. The only surprise is that it took so long. As recently as a month ago, the new administration imagined that its tax package would just sail through on a tide of media torpor, Republican discipline, and bipartisan gesture. No longer. As the details of the president's not very popular program seep into public consciousness, Republicans are starting to desert. So far the Senate has just one reliably faithless Democrat, the politically androgynous Zell Miller of Georgia [see " Zellout ," by Joshua Micah Marshall, on page 14]. Other conservative Democrats who were expected to defect to the Republicans have voted with their own party leaders. Republican moderates, however, are crossing the aisle with impunity. The basic problem with the Bush budget, substantively and politically, is that it puts unpopular tax cuts ahead of public outlays that most voters want. Bush would divert hundreds of billions from the Medicare trust funds,...

Of Our Time: After Solidarity

T he American Republic has long had a set of public and non-profit institutions that enrich our democracy by demonstrating that society is more than a mere market. The most expansive and explicit of these began in the New Deal, such as Social Security and later Medicare. However, public and communal institutions have a venerable history as old as the Massachusetts common schools of the 1660s. The 19th century saw a flowering of non-profit, communal self-help organizations—charity hospitals, credit unions, workingmen's building and loan associations, fraternal and ethnic mutual aid organizations, trade unions, settlement houses, YMCAs, farm bureaus, and the like. In this century, the non-profit sector added major new organizations such as Blue Cross/Blue Shield, community colleges, and so on. To understand these institutions merely as "providing services" is to understand them far too narrowly, for they play a crucial civic and political role. By defining affiliation on the basis of...

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