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

How a Progressive Message Won House Seats

Emily Michot/Miami Herald via AP District 27 Democratic candidate Donna Shalala, center, celebrates her victory over Republican television journalist Maria Elvira Salazar in Coral Gables, Florida. In my election-eve column on Tuesday, I suggested that we take a close look at Democratic candidates who ousted Republican incumbents, to see where a progressive message worked. Here are some early verdicts. At this writing, according to , there are 29 projected Democratic pickups, and another seven where Democrats are leading and likely to take the seat. Of these, 12 Democrats won in heavily Republican territory by advocating Medicare for all, a significant expansion of Medicare, or a buy-in at age 55. They included former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala in Florida, Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania, who is now chair of the House Expand Social Security caucus, as well as Abigail Spanberger, who looks to have upset Dave Brat in the Richmond, Virginia, area, and...

Why Democrats Need to Win as Economic Populists

That’s the best way to win back Trump voters, avoid falling into the identity politics trap, and unify the potential coalition.

There has been a lot of argument about whether Democrats need to win by running more to the left or more to the center. In my writings, I’ve contended that the best way for the Democrats is to gain ground is to run populist on economics. Why? First, because that’s where the country needs radical reform; second, that’s where the Clinton-Obama Democratic Party lost its soul; third, if the election is all about identity rather than economics, that plays to Trump’s fear-mongering; and fourth, economic populism creates a politics of working people of all races against economic royalists rather than working people of different backgrounds against each other. By working people, I mean not just the “working class,” often defined as the non-college educated, but anyone who lives on paychecks and is not independently rich. It’s a class politics Democrats can and should win. It’s also a politics that can allow Democrats to win back some disgusted...

How Will Hate Play in the Midterms?

For months, President Donald Trump has been trying to nationalize the midterm elections. The strategy had a certain logic — until this past week. Normally, there is a dramatic falloff in turnout from a presidential election to a midterm. But given that Trump’s base adores him, if he can get those voters to turn out at anything like 2016 rates, the usual rules won’t apply and his allies will hold Congress. Thus, Trump has been campaigning for Republicans far more aggressively than the usual president in a midterm―certainly more aggressively than a president with overall popularity ratings in the mid-forties in a good week. In some GOP quarters, optimism was growing about the party’s prospects on November 6. But then something happened that threw Trump off balance. Hateful chickens came home to roost. Just days after Trump praised Representative Greg Gianforte of Montana for decking a journalist―“Anybody that can do a body-slam,” Trump...

China Keeps Displacing U.S. Jobs. Where's Trump?

Here is today’s must read: the definitive piece on just how much Chinese abuses of the trading system are costing U.S. workers. 

Economists Robert E. Scott and Zane Mokhiber, in the most exhaustive study yet of the costs of the lopsided U.S.-China trade, report in an Economic Policy Institute study that since China was admitted to the World Trade Organization in 2001, U.S. trade with China has been responsible for a $100 billion increase in the annual trade deficit—and the loss of 3.4 million U.S. jobs. 

Three-quarters of the lost jobs were in manufacturing, a sector that pays well above the average wage. All this translates to a direct loss of 1.5 percent of GDP. Manufacturing job losses due to the China trade deficit account for roughly four out of five U.S. manufacturing jobs lost in this entire period.

Jobs displaced by imports from China paid 17 percent more than jobs exporting to China—$1,021.66 per week versus $872.89 per week. This flatly contradicts Bill Clinton’s projection that letting China into the WTO would be a “win-win” for both nations.

Even advanced tech jobs, supposedly a big winner for the U.S., are actually dominated by China, EPI reports. The growing trade deficits reduced U.S. incomes by $37 billion between 2001 and 2011 alone, and more since.

None of this was the result of China’s natural advantages. The trade imbalance and the lost U.S. jobs are the result of China’s suppression of free unions and wages, its industrial subsidies, and its currency manipulations, the EPI study finds.

Where is our self-proclaimed “nationalist” president in all this? China is a much bigger deal than NAFTA and a far more serious threat. 

The U.S. has immense leverage, as the lopsided deficit shows, because we are China’s biggest customer. Yet Trump’s China policy has been mainly bluster plus scattershot tariffs that add up to no strategic approach. 

A lot of blue-collar workers voted for this guy. They and we deserve a lot better. 

Will Democrats Win the Turnout War?

Things are looking pretty hopeful again, but it isn’t over until it’s over.

(Christopher Millette/Erie Times-News via AP)
Midterm elections for the House are usually major defeats for the party of a newly elected incumbent president, and that bodes poorly for Trump and the Republicans, right? Well, sort of. But there are lots of crosscurrents that could swamp this basic rule of American politics. For starters, Trump is no ordinary Republican president. He is unpopular in the country as a whole, but wildly popular among his base. More than most presidents, Trump is trying to turn the midterms into a referendum on himself. Normally, that would be a dubious idea for a president whose popularity has never broken 50 percent. But it’s probably a smart idea for the Republicans this year, since it could spike the crucial variable of Republican turnout. Turnout in midterms invariably falls relative to presidential elections. But it doesn’t fall uniformly. Other things being equal, Republicans tend to vote in midterms at higher percentages than Democrats. That’s why the recent Democratic losses...