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

Tax-Cut Battle Lost, Democrats Can't Let Up Now

In losing $1.35 trillion of federal revenue to George W. Bush's tax cut, the Democrats lost an important battle, but maybe they haven't lost the war. The war, in this case, is a principled conflict between two contending philosophies of governance and the good society. Should people fend mostly for themselves or should some needs be provided socially? In this debate, conservatives want to shrink social spending. Since the Reagan era, the Republican grand design has been to starve government for resources. President Reagan accomplished that, big time, with his massive tax cut of 1981. That tax cut was responsible for more than a decade of spending cuts and escalating budget deficits, which increased the national debt by more than $3 trillion. The Democrats barely got those deficits under control and began to contemplate restoring some social spending when the Republicans came back in and cut taxes again. Seemingly, Bush's $1.35 trillion tax cut, most of it to the wealthy, removes money...

The Tax Debate We Really Need

The increasingly severe economic downturn offers a fresh basis to reconsider President Bush's tax plan. For starters, it's the wrong kind of tax cut. For reasons of budgetary sleight of hand, most of the benefits would occur in future years. But we need a strong economic stimulus right now. By contrast, President Kennedy's tax cut, which conservatives love to invoke, was front-loaded. Second, most of the benefits go to the wrong people - very wealthy ones who will save rather than spend the proceeds of their tax break. Whatever is afflicting the economy at this moment, it is not a shortage of savings. On the contrary, there is plenty of investment capital around. But in a downturn, capitalists are pulling in their horns. So the stimulus we need should be on the demand side - consumer spending. Investors, if anything, were overly credulous in the booming 1990s. They were easy marks for stock promoters and backed a rash of unneeded ventures that are now collapsing. For the long term,...

Thank You Mr. President:

Dear Mr. President, I didn't vote for you, but you keep making my day. The liberal magazine that I edit, The American Prospect, has doubled its circulation since last fall. Your administration is slavishly pro-business--but it's also good for our business. The more you keep pursuing policies that most people think are nuts, the more people are eager to find alternatives. Imagine, cutting taxes on the richest one percent of Americans, instead of giving ordinary people secure health care and good schools. Please--keep it up, Mr. President, and the sometimes gutless Democrats in Congress will come roaring back. You tried to squeeze crusty old Senator Jim Jeffords--everything from disinviting him from a major education event honoring a teacher from his own state to threatening Vermont's dairy farmers. You squeezed him so hard he quit the Republican party. Just when I think you've learned something--when it looks like you've decided to repair to the middle of the road and be the kind of...

Democrats Must Regroup to Fight Tax Cut

Propelled by Alan Greenspan's sudden conversion, George W. Bush's crusade for a massive general tax cut seems all but unstoppable. The Democrats need to offer something better, and fast, or we will soon have Reagan II. Here is the background: The federal budget surplus will total some $5.6 trillion over the next decade, even allowing for a moderate recession. $2.5 trillion of that surplus belongs to Social Security, to be paid in retirement checks when baby boomers retire later in this century. That leaves over $3 trillion, or something like $300 billion a year. Until now, many Democrats thought they could hold the line against a massive tax cut by arguing that we should use the money to pay off the national debt. This was never smart policy, and it has now been exposed as empty politics. When Alan Greenspan outflanks you as a fiscal moderate, it's clear you got it wrong. The problem is that the surplus just...

Help The Poor Instead of The Rich

What else might we accomplish if we didn't give back 1.6 trillion dollars in tax cuts, about half of the money to millionaires? For starters, we could end poverty in America - by making sure that work pays a living wage and that children don't pay the price when mothers work. In 1996, President Clinton and the Republican Congress ended welfare as we knew it. Welfare was replaced with a new program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This compromise put time limits on public assistance and required recipients to find jobs - but also added supports to help single mothers of small children succeed at work. Luckily for its sponsors, the program coincided with an economic boom, so jobs were plentiful. Details were left to the states. Some chose to help welfare mothers improve their living standards through paid employment, with child care, job training, and outreach to make sure families got the Medicaid and food stamps they needed. Other states just slashed the rolls, and...

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