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

Atlas Unburdened: America's Economic Interests in a New World Era

In 1944 Western statesmen redesigned the global economic order. The end of the Cold War and the new economic realities of the 1990s call for an equally far-sighted reconstruction and clear grasp of America's interests.

T he end of the Cold War era invites a strategic shift in the economic as well as the military posture of the United States. Pluralism in the former Eastern bloc means that the East-West conflict ceases to be the defining strategic reality. Moreover, the coming of age of Western Europe and Japan signals a new pluralism of economic power in the West. The birth of these twin pluralisms calls for a fundamental redefinition of the American national interest. Yet, thus far, these dramatic changes have not generated a fundamental reappraisal or major initiatives from American officials, other than a willingness to begin gradual arms reduction. For the basic American conception of its global interest tenaciously resists revision. Since the late 1940s, the American stance in the world has been built on two bedrock premises: the containment of Soviet communism, which was legitimate and necessary, and the promotion of global laissez-faire, which always had a more doubtful foundation. To...

Is There a Democratic Economics?

The real issue is not the current downturn, but the fifteen-year decline in living standards. That should be the focus of a reframed debate—and different remedies.

Yes, there is a Democratic economics. What remains to be seen is whether there is a Democratic politics. The real economic issue is not the current recession, but fifteen years of invisible depression. That should be the focus of the reframed debate. A steady erosion of living standards for wage and salary earners suggests a very different construction of the problem, different remedies, and a far superior politics. At this writing, George Bush is at last reaping the consequences of eleven years of wrong-headed economic policy. He, and we, face an improbable economic bind, in which annual deficits of $300 billion are necessary for the economy merely to tread water. For Bush to propose capital gains cuts as a remedy is not only bad economics; as politics it plays into the Democrats' hands. Add to this the shaky condition of banks and real estate markets, the visible decay of public services and infrastructure, the richly deserved voter skepticism about various experiments in...

After Conservatism

After a decade of conservative rule, a fair tally of claims and achievements yields a mixed picture. The major conservative strength remains foreign policy, where the right takes credit for the collapse of global communism as a military force and of Marxism as an ideal. Liberals are correct to respond that the policy of containment had liberal origins, that communism collapsed more from its own weight than from the Reagan military buildup, that many ancillary foreign policies -- Iran-contra; misjudging Saddam; bungling the trade round -- were debacles. But polls keep showing that conservatives, deservedly or not, win broad support for their foreign policy, of which the Persian Gulf War is only the most recent example. Domestic policy, however, is another story. If the experience of the 1980s does not bring total discredit to the ideological pretensions of the Reagan revolution, it comes close. The right was going to restore growth. The growth rate of the roaring 1980s barely equaled...

The Private Use of Public Life

Last December, a public interest group called the Center for Public Integrity published a unique analysis of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), titled "America's Frontline Trade Officials."* The center used a wide variety of government documents, newsletters, press clips, directories, and other sources to piece together the career paths of mid-level and senior USTR officials. It found that roughly half of recent senior officials subsequently worked as agents of foreign firms or governments. The fraction that left USTR to pursue careers representing other private interests was over 80 percent. Those with major foreign clients included former trade ambassadors of both parties, including Democrat Robert Strauss, whose law firm has represented the People's Republic of China, Fujitsu, and many others, and Republican William Brock, a long-time paid advocate for Toyota. Deputy Trade Representative Julius Katz was simultaneously a paid consultant to USTR and to French, German...

Collateral Damage

War is seldom good for liberalism. The liberal view of international relations tends to emphasize peace through international law, even though the reach of law is weakest across national frontiers, where no sovereignty exists. Liberals also recoil from the plain violence of war. And they often tend to read their own good intentions into the motives and actions of adversaries who have nothing but contempt for liberal norms and values. More pointedly, war tends to undermine the domestic basis of liberal politics. It divides liberals -- from each other and from voters. It consumes resources liberals want to spend on domestic needs. It diverts attention. Liberalism prizes complexity and tolerance. War engenders jingoism and oversimplification, as well as censorship and a retreat from civil liberties. If there are few atheists in foxholes, there are few liberals there either. And, of course, victory vindicates warriors. World War I divided American progressives and short-circuited the era...

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