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,, and on Twitter. 

Recent Articles

NAFTA 2.0: Can Trump Thread the Needle and Win Democratic Support?

Ben Margot/AP Photo
Trump’s effort to get Congress to approve his revised version of NAFTA isn’t quite dead, but it’s close. The so called USMCA deal that Trump negotiated last year to replace NAFTA makes some modest improvement in the North American auto content required to qualify for tariff-free treatment; and it rolls back some of the power that corporations have to challenge regulations as anti-trade. The draft agreement also gives more standing to genuinely independent trade unions in Mexico, and adds labor rights to trade—at least on paper. However, several of its provisions make it a non-starter in the Democratic House. It gives new power to big pharmaceutical companies to keep prices high. And its labor rights provisions are strong on rhetoric and weak on enforcement. The coalition of corporations that back NAFTA 2.0 had counted on New Democrats and some Democratic freshmen in swing seats to support the deal, but so far the entire caucus has displayed surprising unity in...

Second Thoughts About That San Francisco Mural

AP Photo
You’ve probably read or heard about the controversy over a 1930s mural at San Francisco’s George Washington High School depicting the American founding as it really was—white men creating a republic that oppressed slaves, on land stolen from the natives. The 13-panel mural, created by a communist with WPA support, Victor Arnautoff, was seen as progressive revisionism, and in its day it rankled conservatives . Now, however, the San Francisco School Board, with a majority of people of color, has flipped that critique. They plan to spend $600,000 of taxpayer money to destroy the mural. Why on earth would they want to remove a mural that corrects a prettified founding myth? Why destroy art at all? The answer: the mural is seen as disturbing to many students because it reinforces a longstanding narrative of blacks being beaten down by whites. Isn’t it time for a narrative of blacks as heroic and resilient? Like a lot of white liberals, my reaction was that this is...

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...