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

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...

Tipping Point

Will a war once again bail out a faltering presidency? Or will it crystallize for voters all of the contradictions of the Bush regime? Bush's stock was not particularly high on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. The economy was wobbly. He had alienated Republican moderates and sacrificed GOP control of the Senate. He was using a tenuous mandate to push radically conservative policies at odds with what most Americans had voted for. Then terrorists struck, and the Bush presidency was transformed. It has taken 20 months for Bush's slide to resume, yet he has an uncanny ability to step around blunders and deceptions that would sink an ordinary president. Will he do it again with another national security crisis, this time of his own invention? Consider: His is the worst economic performance of any newly inaugurated president since Herbert Hoover. The economy has lost 2 million jobs since January 2001. Bush's economic program promises to create only 190,000 jobs this year under the...

Executive Privilege

President Bush, tone deaf to irony, chose Martin Luther King's birthday week to oppose affirmative action. His position on the Michigan case now before the Supreme Court seems high-minded until you look at the specifics. "I strongly support diversity of all kinds, including racial diversity in higher education," Bush declared. But he termed the Michigan system an unconstitutional "quota system" that amounts to "racial discrimination." The University of Michigan uses a point system in its admissions based mostly on academic achievement. To increase minority representation, it awards extra points to African-American, Hispanic or Native American applicants. Bush favors an alternative approach of the kind used in Texas, Florida and California, where the state university system automatically admits the top academic students from each high school -- the top 4 percent in California, the top 10 percent in Texas and the top 20 percent in Florida. These systems, like Michigan's, also get...

Comment: Never Mind

O ne of the most astonishing recent events is the spectacle of Bill Richardson, formerly Bill Clinton's ambassador to the United Nations, literally mediating between the Bush administration and the North Koreans. Even weirder is how this anomalous piece of freelancing came about. The North Koreans had enjoyed a constructive relationship with Richardson, who was recently elected governor of New Mexico. They put out informal feelers, and Richardson got a green light from Colin Powell to proceed with back-channel talks. Imagine the reaction of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and the administration's other ultras. You can also imagine the right's hoots of derision if a Democratic president had to rely on a Republican governor spontaneously acting to save the president from the folly of his own policy. Richardson, please recall, was a leading player in an administration whose Korea policy Bush has sought to disavow and reverse. By carelessly including North Korea in a spurious "axis of evil"...

Class Act

Now that President Bush has a fight on his hands over his proposed tax and budget program, the usual suspects are insisting that anyone who challenges these plans is promoting class warfare. Defenders of progressive taxation stand accused of resenting the rich, who presumably achieved their wealth through good, old-fashioned hard work. Moreover, the entrepreneurial class generates the jobs for the rest of us. So why kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, even if the goose sometimes seems overfat? In addition, tax-the-rich is said to be bad politics. Conservative essayist David Brooks elegantly laid out the argument in last Sunday's New York Times (though I am suspicious of conservatives giving liberals tactical advice.) First, Brooks wrote, most people "vote their aspirations" rather than their current economic self interest. The fellow making $30,000 a year hopes that some day he will be a millionaire, too. He doesn't like the idea of paying taxes on his imaginary millions...

Pages