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. 

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Recent Articles

Race, Racism, and the Democratic Race

Jennifer King/Miami Herald/AP
agenda_2020.jpg The Democratic field is winnowing down way ahead of schedule. There is always the chance that a long-shot candidate can break out, but that chance diminishes every day thanks to the relentless logic of bandwagon effects and competition for funds. Few people like to throw money at a likely loser. After the debates, polls suggest that the effective field is four and a half. The half is Pete Buttigieg, who is now bogged down in a messy hometown conflict over race and policing, which undermines his claim to be a world-class, problem-solving mayor; keeps him off the campaign trail; and makes him a lightning rod for black protest at a time when race is coming to the fore. Mayor Pete, however, has raised massive sums from donors large and small, and on that basis is still (barely) a first-tier player. The four serious contenders are of course Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Bernie Sanders. A new CNN poll shows Biden faltering, and only slightly ahead of Harris...

Neoliberalism: Political Success, Economic Failure

The invisible hand is more like a thumb on the scale for the world’s elites. That’s why market fundamentalism has been unmasked as bogus economics but keeps winning politically.

This article appears in the Summer 2019 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . Since the late 1970s, we’ve had a grand experiment to test the claim that free markets really do work best. This resurrection occurred despite the practical failure of laissez-faire in the 1930s, the resulting humiliation of free-market theory, and the contrasting success of managed capitalism during the three-decade postwar boom. Yet when growth faltered in the 1970s, libertarian economic theory got another turn at bat. This revival proved extremely convenient for the conservatives who came to power in the 1980s. The neoliberal counterrevolution, in theory and policy, has reversed or undermined nearly every aspect of managed capitalism—from progressive taxation, welfare transfers, and antitrust, to the empowerment of workers and the regulation of banks and other major industries. Neoliberalism’s premise is that free markets can regulate themselves; that government is...

Fearful Symmetry: The Case of Abortion Rights

Today’s Exhibit A is abortion rights. And today’s culprit is this recent piece in The New York Times , headlined: “As Passions Flare in the Abortion Debate, Many Americans Say ‘It’s Complicated.’” The offending journalist who wrote this piece, Times reporter Jeremy Peters, frames it thus: The nuance in how Americans … view abortion has largely fallen out of the noisy national dialogue about when women should be able to end their pregnancies. Complex questions—of medicine, morality, personal empowerment, and the proper role of government—are often reduced to the kind of all-or-nothing propositions that are ever more common in the polarized politics of the Trump era. Peters goes on to contend that defenders of abortion rights, pushed by the absolutism of the right, are now as absolutist as those who want to prohibit abortion. How to say this politely? Peters’s assertion is total malarkey. It is another case of the far...

Warren, the Incidental and Integral Feminist

Have you noticed that Elizabeth Warren is not quite running as a feminist? Her feminism is, rather, integral to who she is. For instance, Warren’s basic story tells of how her mother had to take a paid job for the first time after her father’s heart attack, and how she kept saying amid sobs, “We will not lose this house, we will not lose this house.” What kind of story could be more quintessentially female? Every woman in the audience gets what that’s about. And in the narrative of her own rise, as a young mother desperate to attend law school, all that stands between Warren and her dream is decent day care and toilet training: Finally, finally, less than one week before classes were starting, I found a place that seemed nice. Cheerful teachers, a good playground, it smelled good. That thing matters, you know. There was only one problem: They only took children who were "dependably potty trained." Man, I filled out that application, I said "Sure...

When a National Champion Crashes and Burns

Matt York/AP Photo
Many large corporations play the role of so-called national champions. They help their home countries maintain good jobs, technological leadership, and exports. National champions include Toyota, Siemens, Samsung, Apple, Citigroup, Fiat, Airbus, Intel, Volkswagen, an increasing number of Chinese companies, and—until now—Boeing, the source of a huge U.S. trade surplus in commercial airliners that helps offset the rest of our massive trade deficit. But what happens when a national champion crashes and burns? Nothing good. Boeing, having been caught selling thousands of not quite airworthy 737 MAX planes, is now vulnerable to a mountain of lost orders and lawsuits. Why would customers choose to fly on a plane that has been demonstrated to be unsafe because of bad corporate cost-cutting decisions, cover-ups, and patches? This, in turn, will harm airlines that bought the 737 MAX. Get ready for their lawsuits. Boeing will face losses, and conceivably a bankruptcy, as airlines...