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 The Stakes: 2020 and the Survival of American Democracy. In addition to writing for the Prospect, he writes for HuffPost, The Boston Globe, and The New York Review of Books. 

Follow Bob at his site, robertkuttner.com, and on Twitter

Recent Articles

Getting Over The Lock Box

For six decades, Democrats have been proud defenders of America's most popular government program, Social Security. But the debate is now becoming so muddled that when the dust settles, Social Security may well end up partly privatized with George W. Bush getting credit for saving it. How could this have happened? Twenty years ago, it became clear that Social Security needed adjustment because people were living longer. Unlike a private retirement account, Social Security keeps sending the checks as long as you live. In 1983, Congress slightly raised both taxes and the retirement age. It also adjusted the cost-of-living formula. These changes deliberately caused Social Security to take in more money than it paid out, through about 2013. This was done to bank reserves so that the system could keep paying full benefits when the baby-boom generation retires. Then the system will need to tap those reserves. These modifications will keep the system solvent until the 2030s. What then? There...

A Misguided Goal for Social Security

The stock market has been pretty stagnant. Despite one rate cut after another by the Federal Reserve, the market shows no signs of reverting to its 1990s performance any time soon. One casualty of a bear market is likely to be the campaign to privatize Social Security. President Bush has appointed a commission on Social Security that includes only members in favor of at least partial privatization of the program. The privatizers argue that the stock market over time pays a better rate of return than Social Security. Supposedly, if we allow people to put at least part of their payroll tax contributions into personal accounts, they will retire with more money. Moreover, this higher rate of return is touted as the cure for a system projected to run serious red ink in 30 or 40 years. If people can put some money into personal accounts, supporters argue, Social Security's financial shortfall will ease because so much more income will accumulate. Put aside for a moment the fact that Social...

Bush Is Playing With Religious Fire

Does George W. Bush appreciate what fire he is playing with when he stirs up the religious right? It is almost as if we are on the road to religious war. In so many corners of the globe, people are brutalizing their neighbors because each is convinced that he has a direct pipeline to the true deity, while the outsider is a dangerous infidel. Whether in the Middle East, or Ireland, Iran or Afghanistan, state-fomented religious intolerance is the great blight on the right of ordinary people to live as they choose, as well as a grave threat to the peace. Colleague James Carroll's recent best-selling book, ''Constantine's Sword,'' recounted the appalling history of how militant Christians slaughtered millions of outsiders, in the name of the healing word of Jesus of Nazareth. As we see from the seemingly insoluble conflicts in Ireland and Israel, religious difference quickly degenerates into tribalism. The conflicts have long since ceased to be about the correct form of worship, but about...

Gore's Gamble With Lieberman

Jewish immigrants to America used to respond anxiously to any major public news event by asking: Is it good for the Jews? Al Gore's embrace of Joe Lieberman invites a new twist: Is it good for the Democrats? I'm torn. On the one hand, Gore's choice signals boldness. And it could give America an elevated debate about religious tolerance of the sort we haven't seen since John Kennedy and maybe since Thomas Jefferson. On the other hand, it could inflame American tribalism. And the designation ofthe centrist Lieberman, quite apart from his religion, kisses off the Democratic party's liberal and trade union base. Now the liberal on the ticket, relatively, is Gore. The more hopeful scenario goes something like this: Not only does Lieberman make it much harder for Republicans to rail against the amorality of ''Clinton-Gore.'' But who better than an orthodox Jew to trip up the fundamentalist right? Moral Majority types think they have a monopoly on religious faith. Lieberman's presence makes...

Comment: The Persistence of Politics

The first casualty of war is said to be truth, but more precisely the casualty is complexity. In war, there are Evil and Good, Enemies and Allies, a Them and an Us, conveniently spelled U.S. George Bush declared: "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists." Excoriating an enemy whose suicide bombers fly in the name of Allah, Bush also clarified that God is, in fact, on our side. As a national spasm of righteous rage, war is a bad time for liberal intellectuals, whose very vocation is complexity. In war, domestic reform gets sidetracked; dissent gets confused with treason. Liberals themselves tend to divide into realists and idealists. The intellectual who agonizes over war's moral complexities risks getting punched out in a bar. In WWII, when Nazism was an unambiguous enemy, liberal intellectuals could reconcile patriotism with love of complex puzzles by joining the OSS. This war, I fear, will be the most frustrating in our history. For all of the popular outrage and...

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