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

Help The Poor Instead of The Rich

What else might we accomplish if we didn't give back 1.6 trillion dollars in tax cuts, about half of the money to millionaires? For starters, we could end poverty in America - by making sure that work pays a living wage and that children don't pay the price when mothers work. In 1996, President Clinton and the Republican Congress ended welfare as we knew it. Welfare was replaced with a new program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This compromise put time limits on public assistance and required recipients to find jobs - but also added supports to help single mothers of small children succeed at work. Luckily for its sponsors, the program coincided with an economic boom, so jobs were plentiful. Details were left to the states. Some chose to help welfare mothers improve their living standards through paid employment, with child care, job training, and outreach to make sure families got the Medicaid and food stamps they needed. Other states just slashed the rolls, and...

The Brutal Price of Bush's Tax Cut

The great budget surplus is evaporating. The culprit is George W. Bush's tax cut, compounded by the economic slowdown. Seemingly, this spells bad political news for Bush. He is having to violate his pledge that the Social Security surplus would never be tapped for general government outlays. The vanishing surplus vindicates the criticism that the tax cut was excessive, and also sets back spending plans for pet administration boondoggles, such as missile defense. All of this gives the opposition Democrats lots of ammunition for now. But hold the champagne. This whole way of thinking about budget politics is a long-term trap for Democrats. Budget politics now equates austerity with virtue. Defending the surplus is good; spending it is bad. The surplus is also associated with protecting Social Security. Supposedly, by using the current Social Security surplus accounts to retire public debt, we set the stage for new borrowing 40 years in the future when Social Security payouts could...

Tax-Cut Battle Lost, Democrats Can't Let Up Now

In losing $1.35 trillion of federal revenue to George W. Bush's tax cut, the Democrats lost an important battle, but maybe they haven't lost the war. The war, in this case, is a principled conflict between two contending philosophies of governance and the good society. Should people fend mostly for themselves or should some needs be provided socially? In this debate, conservatives want to shrink social spending. Since the Reagan era, the Republican grand design has been to starve government for resources. President Reagan accomplished that, big time, with his massive tax cut of 1981. That tax cut was responsible for more than a decade of spending cuts and escalating budget deficits, which increased the national debt by more than $3 trillion. The Democrats barely got those deficits under control and began to contemplate restoring some social spending when the Republicans came back in and cut taxes again. Seemingly, Bush's $1.35 trillion tax cut, most of it to the wealthy, removes money...

The Tax Debate We Really Need

The increasingly severe economic downturn offers a fresh basis to reconsider President Bush's tax plan. For starters, it's the wrong kind of tax cut. For reasons of budgetary sleight of hand, most of the benefits would occur in future years. But we need a strong economic stimulus right now. By contrast, President Kennedy's tax cut, which conservatives love to invoke, was front-loaded. Second, most of the benefits go to the wrong people - very wealthy ones who will save rather than spend the proceeds of their tax break. Whatever is afflicting the economy at this moment, it is not a shortage of savings. On the contrary, there is plenty of investment capital around. But in a downturn, capitalists are pulling in their horns. So the stimulus we need should be on the demand side - consumer spending. Investors, if anything, were overly credulous in the booming 1990s. They were easy marks for stock promoters and backed a rash of unneeded ventures that are now collapsing. For the long term,...

America's Children

I t's no accident that politicians kiss babies. America is a nation that professes to love its children. Yet the policies we have in place to raise the next generation are those of a nation that kisses children off. This special report offers a tour of the horizon. In the opening piece, Janet C. Gornick and Marcia K. Meyers bring news that may surprise a lot of American readers: The European welfare state is far from dead, at least in the way that it eases the work-family straddle. Europe's profamily policies have profound implications, not just for the well-being of children but for the changing role of gender in paid work and nurturing. If we want mothers and fathers to have equal opportunities, both at home and in the workplace, somebody competent needs to be looking after children. Otherwise, someone suffers. If not children, then parents. If not parents, then children. If not our working selves, our parenting selves. Visit TAP Online's Special Segment on Children and Families Our...

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