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: Beyond the Fringe

A s we go to press, polls show Al Gore running as much as eight points behind George W. Bush nationally, and behind among every major age group except for voters over 65. This is truly remarkable. The economy is strong, the Republicans got the worst of the impeachment scandal, there are no serious foreign-policy problems, and Bush is a palpable lightweight. Voters ought to be increasingly appalled the better they get to know him. But this isn't happening. There are two pretty clear inferences. The vice president is a god-awful candidate; and as Robert Reich suggests [see " The Real Risk for Gore ," page 56], Gore is making a disastrous mistake by running on cautious themes unlikely to animate either base voters or swing voters. The needless party split provoked by the administration's insistence that China had to become a full World Trade Organization (WTO) member this year only diminishes one reliable source of party energy and...

Of Our Time: A Liberal Dunkirk?

H as the Clinton presidency been a grave setback for liberalism? Or a necessary, if wrenching, re-centering? We have debated this question in our pages, and historians will long argue the issue. One must await the results of the 1996 election to provide a more complete answer. However, here is a look at both sides of the argument and a tentative verdict. Modern liberalism has been a twofold enterprise. First, it has entailed the expansion of individual rights, social inclusion, and political participation. Second, it has used the state, through both government regulation and public spending, to temper the extremes and instabilities of the private market. When the public is in a liberal mood, the polity is rendered more inclusive; and government gains expanded authority to discipline the market-a nice marriage of politics, government, and political economy. By these tests, Clinton has failed to consolidate past liberal gains, let alone expand them. He has stemmed the slide to the right...

Comment: The McCain Mutiny

O n most issues, Republican legislators have presented a solid phalanx to give the Bush administration whatever it wants. The exception is campaign finance reform--and the chink in the Republican armor is Arizona Senator John McCain. Should Democrats be cheered? The answer is a qualified yes. For starters, the reform coalition is mostly McCain plus Democrats. The Democrats are thus identified with an overdue set of popular reforms, while George W. Bush, who won election on a tide of unlimited corporate money, is identified with business as usual. The bad news is that the McCain-Feingold bill keeps getting watered down, and it was less than revolutionary to begin with. In the end, Bush will probably sign it, less because he was out strategized and outvoted than because the bill won't make that much difference. The McCain-Feingold bill is necessary because of the collapse of the post-Watergate system of reforms. This legislation, enacted in 1974, was intended to constrain both...

Comment: Taking It with You

A s Sheldon Pollack writes in this issue ["It's Alive," page 29], Republicans in Congress are close to killing the estate tax. Some remnant will survive, but it could be significantly cut, and with the collusion of many Democrats. Why get rid of a tax paid only by the richest 1 percent of Americans? Why scrap our only wealth tax, one that accounted for $28 billion dollars of revenue in 1999? You can understand why Republicans favor repeal, but why do numerous Democrats follow suit? The answer, in brief, is campaign finance. Only half of 1 percent of voters contribute more than $250 to political candidates. But these are the people that candidates hang out with--and of course these are the people with estates large enough to pay tax. Only in this crowd is $28 billion of federal revenue chump change. As Pollack points out, the lost revenue gradually rises to over $50 billion a year. That kind of money could buy prescription drug coverage for the...

Comment: Top-Down Class Warfare

I t is difficult for a liberal to raise concerns about irresponsible corporations without being accused of class warfare. The Wall Street Journal recently ridiculed Al Gore for "schlock populism" and cynical "business-bashing." In truth Gore's criticism is carefully calibrated and directed against assaults that affect the broad middle class. The vice president goes after drug companies for price-gouging, managed care companies for second-guessing doctors, tobacco companies for marketing products to kids, and Hollywood for purveying violence. Most voters agree with Gore. But the vice president hasn't attacked corporations in general. Nor has he addressed America's gross disparities of income and wealth, or the fact that tens of millions of full-time jobs fail to pay a living wage, or the abuses of welfare reform. That brand of class politics takes exceptional political courage because most of America considers itself middle class. The...

Pages