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

Two Bad Calls: The Faulty Ballots, The Bumbling Process

Americans will be asking questions about the 2000 election for some time to come. Here are two big ones: How could the world's most secure democracy have ended up with a balloting system in which millions of votes routinely get lost, miscounted, stolen, or spoiled? The premise seems to be: What the hell, it's close enough for politics. There is nothing more fundamental to a free and fair election than an accurate count. But on the way to the 21st century we belatedly realized that we're stuck with 19th-century voting technology. Actually, it's worse than that. The voting machine that recorded my ballot, using a technology invented in the 1890s, is more reliable than the punch-card technology contrived in the 1950s. Voting machines have nice, clearlevers, splendid bells to chime in the vote, and no hanging chads. The antique technology, in turn, reflects an 18th century conception of what is properly local and what is necessarily national...

The Lynching of The Black Vote

Many books will be written about the stolen presidential election of 2000. And when they are, one prominent factor will be the Republicans systematic and extra-legal effort to reduce black voting, details of which are just now being pieced together. Black turnout was way up this year, and nowhere more dramatically than in Florida. Black voters there were upset with Governor Jeb Bush's retreat on affirmative action. They were mobilized by effective registration and get-out-the-vote drives by civil rights groups and black churches. Jesse Jackson spent weeks in Florida, speaking to large African-American crowds, with a punchline that became a familiar refrain: Stay out of the Bushes! Although black turnout tends to slightly lag white turnout, this year 16 percent of registered voters in Florida were black, up from 10 percent in 1996. And blacks, loyal to Clinton-Gore and unhappy with the brothers Bush, gave Gore-Lieberman a striking 90 percent...

The Two-Party System is Letting us Down

This year voting turnout could fall to a record presidential low. The decline partly reflects two dreadful candidates but also the long-term impoverishment of politics. Membership organizations have been displaced by professional fund-raisers and TV spots. The time squeeze leaves no leisure for ordinary people to go to meetings. Civic values are crowded out by entertainment, celebrity, and marketing. If the Bush-Gore show has to compete as entertainment, it loses, and so do we. But so much that affects our private lives is inherently and irrevocably political. Either we embrace political questions as a free people or decisions get made for us. And this year, most of the big questions are off the political radar screen. Start with kids. The new, 24-7 economy operates at the expense of children, especially children from families not affluent enough to buy their way out. Did you and your spouse have a spat this week about who had to juggle work...

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...

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