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

Of Our Time: Taking Care of Business

Few trends could so thoroughly undermine the very foundations of our free society as the acceptance by corporate officials of a social responsibility other than to make as much money for their shareholders as possible. —Milton Friedman , Capitalism and Freedom I n a market economy, as Charles E. Lindblom reminded us in Politics and Markets , business holds a position of special privilege. It tends to dominate not just the economy, but the polity and the prevailing ideology. Though business lost some of its luster in the excesses of the 1980s, the pendulum did not swing back toward a national mood of greater public-mindedness as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., had predicted. On the contrary, the prestige of business has come roaring back in the '90s, as the American economy has regained competitive strength globally. The dynamism of business is taken as simple proof of its virtue. Indeed, the last time business enjoyed such general approbation was nearly a lifetime ago—before the great crash...

War Profiteering On Anthrax Meds

Depending on what terrorists do next, America could be on the verge of a public health catastrophe. The administration is moving belatedly to develop stocks of antibiotics to treat anthrax. The government is also looking to procure 300 million doses of smallpox vaccine to inoculate a new generation against a weaponized disease that was wiped out in its natural form two decades ago. It is instructive to look at the role of two key players in this drama: the private drug industry and the public health system. Last week, Bayer, the maker of Cipro, was resisting government efforts to use existing federal authority to order mandatory patent licensing, to enable other labs to manufacture an emergency supply. The generic version of Cipro is easily produced, for a tiny fraction of the $4.50 a dose or $350 per month that Bayer charges. Producers in India sell generic ciprofloxacin for about $10 for a monthly supply, and the drug is also made generically in Spain and Portugal. Curiously,...

If You Took an Airplane Recently, You Know Deregulation's a Loser

If you are like millions of Americans who vacationed this summer, you paid top dollar for airline tickets, had little choice of airline, and were rewarded by long delays. But then, when you landed, you became a sovereign consumer again. You had your choice of car rental companies, hotels, and restaurants. You could shop around for the best prices, carefully measuring price against quality, and exercise real buying power. Indeed, at the very same airport where one or two airlines monopolize routes and disrespect passengers, 10 or 15 auto rental companies, often side by side, compete vigorously and courteously for your business. How it is that car rental companies give you plenty of choice and high quality service, but not airlines? The answer is that airlines are not a naturally competitive industry. They require very expensive capital equipment that needs to fly mostly full to be cost effective. Big airlines have the market power to crush little ones. And airlines depend on public...

Comment: Boom Box

This month, the economic boom enters its 107th month, making it the longest expansion in U.S. history. But there are now two small clouds on the economic horizon. With the economy having grown in the fourth quarter of 1999 not at the 3- or even 4-percent annual rate that most economists now consider sustainable, but at 5.8 percent, the Federal Reserve will try to temper the economy's growth. And just to give the Fed ammunition, the oil exporting countries have lately succeeded in restricting output and raising the price of crude oil, which filters through to the measured rate of inflation. Nothing scares central bankers like inflation, never mind whether it has any connection to domestic economic "overheating." The growth rate has soared to levels not seen since the 1960s because the new economy really is new. Technology that took more than two decades to gestate is finally bearing fruit in higher productivity, in applications as diverse as retail sales,...

Comment: Free Fall

I t is hard to believe that the Bush administration could be in so much trouble on so many fronts. Just in the past few weeks, Bush has found himself politically isolated on the issues of stem cell research, offshore oil drilling, prescription benefits under Medicare, patients' rights, access to the United States for Mexican trucks, new "fast track" trade authority, taxpayer aid to religious institutions, and Social Security. When two honest congressmen, Republican Jim Kolbe of Arizona and Democrat Charlie Stenholm of Texas, translated Bush's Social Security program into legislation, the consequences became awkwardly palpable. The measure proposed diverting part of the payroll tax to private accounts. Recognizing the fiscal consequences of this shift, the bill's drafters also proposed delaying the retirement age and trimming Social Security checks. Republicans ran for cover by the dozens. The Republican House Speaker, Dennis Hastert, quickly opposed the bill. Even the White House...

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