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: Free Fall

I t is hard to believe that the Bush administration could be in so much trouble on so many fronts. Just in the past few weeks, Bush has found himself politically isolated on the issues of stem cell research, offshore oil drilling, prescription benefits under Medicare, patients' rights, access to the United States for Mexican trucks, new "fast track" trade authority, taxpayer aid to religious institutions, and Social Security. When two honest congressmen, Republican Jim Kolbe of Arizona and Democrat Charlie Stenholm of Texas, translated Bush's Social Security program into legislation, the consequences became awkwardly palpable. The measure proposed diverting part of the payroll tax to private accounts. Recognizing the fiscal consequences of this shift, the bill's drafters also proposed delaying the retirement age and trimming Social Security checks. Republicans ran for cover by the dozens. The Republican House Speaker, Dennis Hastert, quickly opposed the bill. Even the White House...

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 Throwing away outdated material under such headings as "budget," "unemployment," "savings rate," and "inflation," I realized just how miscast were so many of the assumptions and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...

Comment: Boom Box

This month, the economic boom enters its 107th month, making it the longest expansion in U.S. history. But there are now two small clouds on the economic horizon. With the economy having grown in the fourth quarter of 1999 not at the 3- or even 4-percent annual rate that most economists now consider sustainable, but at 5.8 percent, the Federal Reserve will try to temper the economy's growth. And just to give the Fed ammunition, the oil exporting countries have lately succeeded in restricting output and raising the price of crude oil, which filters through to the measured rate of inflation. Nothing scares central bankers like inflation, never mind whether it has any connection to domestic economic "overheating." The growth rate has soared to levels not seen since the 1960s because the new economy really is new. Technology that took more than two decades to gestate is finally bearing fruit in higher productivity, in applications as diverse as retail sales,...

Comment: Speed Bumps

W ill the economic expansion just keep rolling on? Probably not. The economy has certainly demonstrated that it can sustain higher rates of growth than most economists thought possible. This higher speed limit is one part technology, one part greater competition, and one part belated recognition that the earlier pessimism about the economy's potential was wrong. The economy could well have achieved somewhat higher growth and fuller employment without inflation all along. Even so, that doesn't mean we'll never have another recession. The entire history of industrial capitalism is one of unexpected shocks. These setbacks have often been compounded by bad policy. Most recent recessions have resulted from the Federal Reserve overreacting to inflationary pressures or using the wrong tools. The current Fed chairman, Alan Greenspan, has been less inflation-phobic than most of his predecessors. But Greenspan is now playing a very risky game, tightening money even while inflationary pressures...

Back to the Future

D uring the postwar boom, it seemed that mass unemployment had been cured forever. A mixed economy--based on activist government, deficit spending, public investment, strong trade-unionism, a welfare state, and a warfare state--kept the industrial West on a high-growth path. Living standards rose steadily. Satisfied voters returned to office politicians who believed in this model. Not only is that economy dead, but the soil that nurtured it has seriously eroded. Today most politicians in the West believe their task is to expunge the mixed economy, not to reinvent it. As mass unemployment keeps rising and wages stagnate, it is bizarre to watch governments pursue freer trade, more deregulation, limitations on government, balanced budgets, and privatization, as if a pre-Keynesian free market would somehow restore high growth and full employment. With the collapse of communism and the revival of ghosts of prewar nationalism in both Eastern and Western Europe, the stakes could not be...

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