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

Care Bare

War drums in the Middle East are providing the Bush administration with camouflage for domestic policies so dreadful that they could not withstand the scrutiny of front-page attention. Take Bush's designs on Medicare. What the administration really wants is to privatize Medicare. This means that seniors would be herded into HMOs. The federal government's annual contribution would be capped. If you couldn't afford decent HMO coverage (if there is such a thing), too bad. This strategy neatly serves two conservative purposes. First, privatize everything possible. Second, cut federal social outlays, the better to finance tax cuts for upper brackets. Unfortunately for Bush, Medicare is justifiably popular. Despite all the Republican blather about "choice," the one health plan for older Americans that provides completely free choice of primary-care doctors, specialists, hospitals and treatments is, of course, good old conventional Medicare. As even the doddering know from bitter experience...

Life Saver

As America's Vietnam expedition was becoming a quagmire in 1966, Vermont Senator George Aiken famously said that we should "declare victory and go home." The war, of course, dragged on for several more years, and North Vietnam won. A third of a century later, Vietnam is a quasi-capitalist country, cultivating U.S. investment, consumer markets and tourism. If only we had declared victory and gone home in 1966, we might have spared countless American and Vietnamese lives. History's ultimate shape would not have been different. At the time, "staying the course" in Vietnam, however foolishly, was posed as a test of American credibility. Who would follow the lead of a superpower who tucked tail and ran, as Lyndon Johnson liked to put it? Who indeed? Less than two decades after Washington finally decided to cut American losses in Vietnam, communism was a shambles and the United States was the world's sole superpower. Something of the same choice faces us in Iraq. Only, unlike our situation...

Bird Brains

President Bush's Iraq policy is frightening in its own right, but it is even more ominous as the first step in a new global grand design. The emerging Bush Doctrine goes something like this: The 9-11 attacks signaled a new kind of threat to America and all open societies. Unlike "mutually assured destruction," in which the United States and USSR essentially held each other's civilian population hostage, nuclear deterrence can't work against terrorists, since terrorists are both stateless and suicidal. While it is necessary to increase border security, civil defense and intelligence efforts drastically, these are not sufficient. For terrorism is so far-flung, and so easily concealed, that a free society can never fully protect itself. What, then, to do? Bush's strategists have an answer as audacious as it is grandiose: Just get rid of hostile regimes and societies. As Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith told The New Yorker 's Nicholas Lemann, a war to establish democracy in Iraq "...

Radicals in Power

In the debate about America and Iraq, two questions keep getting confused. First, does the United States have grounds to remove Saddam Hussein? And second, is an American invasion the best available course of action, after we balance all the likely risks and gains? The answer to the first question is a resounding yes. The Iraqi dictator ranks with history's worst. And he has violated both the letter and spirit of the truce following the 1990 Gulf War, which allowed him to stay in power in exchange for disarming and agreeing to an inspections regime. But it doesn't automatically follow that war is sensible policy. And here, the critics are the realists and the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz contingent the naïve utopians. Look back at the past half-century. The United States has co-existed with numerous loathsome regimes -- but for good strategic reasons decided not to go in and "take them out." The list begins with Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev, whose assaults against both citizens and...

Hero Worship

Like other Americans, I found the loss of the space shuttle Columbia tragic for the individual astronauts and their families, poignant as an exploratory setback and compelling as a news story. But something was off about the relentless, repetitive, almost obsessive media coverage. What does it say about us as a people? The network and cable channels covered the tragedy nonstop. Most of the dailies went on page after page after page -- the puzzle of what caused the disaster, the human-interest aspect, the anguish of a failed mission, the bizarre debris falling from the sky, the reaction of the great and the humble. This was all newsworthy, even riveting, but only up to a point. What was so troubling about the excess? Partly, it's a question of proportion and misplaced complicity. NASA presents the manned space program as something of unique grandeur and scientific importance. By giving the story so much excessive coverage, the press plays handmaiden to the hype. One looked in vain for...

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