Category: from Robert Kuttner

Trump And Mateen: Brothers In Hate

Robert Kuttner Co-Founder and Co-Editor, The American Prospect

America will soon decide whether we are a society dominated by hate. The appeal of hate is that it’s really simple. It is the aftermath of hate that’s such a hard mess.

Complexity is so much less satisfying. But will also have to decide whether we are a society that can navigate complexity; and diversity; and compassion — and respond in ways that do not make horrific problems even worse.

So many words have been spilled over a question that should be palpably clear by now: Was Omar Mateen motivated by anti-gay hate? Or by the appeal of ISIS? Or was he a troubled loner?

It will not take extensive investigation to establish the basic reality that this was a very troubled man; that he was viciously anti-gay; and that ISIS was a handy flag of convenience for his hatred. There will be more of this, with diverse targets.

Barack Obama is better than your average president at leading us to appreciation of the fact that the world is a frightening and complex place. Obama is way above average at steering us away from hate. Hillary Clinton is pretty good at both — but she needs to get a lot better, and fast.

Obama’s election, less than eight years ago, showed that America, at our best, could avoid hate and embrace our diversity. But at our worst, God help us.

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Profiles in Cowardice — GOP Leaders and Donald Trump

Robert Kuttner Co-Founder and Co-Editor, The American Prospect

Donald Trump has entered a new phase of autocratic weirdness. His attack on Federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding in the lawsuit against Trump University, was a trifecta. It combined outright racism with an assault on the independent judiciary and a clear warning that Trump would use the presidency to settle personal business scores.

His rants at reporters display contempt for the role of a free press. He would govern like a spiteful tyrant, with all the awesome powers of a president of the United States — settling scores, punishing enemies, making impetuous, ignorant decisions.

As this reality sinks in, Trump’s campaign should be imploding about now. And it might be — if other Republican leaders displayed a modicum of concern for the future of the Republic. But with a few notable exceptions, the GOP leadership is either giving Trump a pass, or just taking a pass.

You can count the exceptions on the fingers of one hand (and still have the middle finger left over for other uses in this campaign). Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse is one. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker is a second. And the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, a third. All have spoken out against Trump. Rick Synder, the Republican Governor of Michigan who in big trouble at home, declined to make an endorsement, but otherwise doesn’t comment.

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The Libertarian Party Could Provide Insurance for Hillary Clinton

Robert Kuttner Co-Founder and Co-Editor, The American Prospect

Two former Republican governors are running for president and vice president on the Libertarian line. They are Gary Johnson, former New Mexico governor, and William Weld, former governor of Massachusetts. The Libertarian Party holds its nominating convention in Orlando, Florida, over Memorial Day weekend.

The Libertarian Party could play the spoiler role in 2016 for Donald Trump, just as Ralph Nader did in 2000, but this time helping to tip the election to the Democrat.

Its minor-party counterpart on the left, the Green Party led by standard bearer Jill Stein, is far less likely to draw a comparable level of support from disaffected Bernie Sanders supporters. Sanders himself has already said he’ll support the Democratic nominee.

Unlike the typical third party candidates, Johnson and Weld are experienced mainstream politicians. Johnson, a former construction company entrepreneur, served two terms from 1994 to 2002, winning both elections by ten points. Weld was a highly popular and moderate governor of the Bay State. He won re-election by the largest margin in state history in 1994.

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Generation Sanders

Robert Kuttner Co-Founder and Co-Editor, The American Prospect

For more than a year, my pragmatist friends and colleagues have under-estimated the appeal of Bernie Sanders. As a big Sanders win approaches in the New Hampshire primary, they insist that this will be Sanders' last hurrah and urge his supporters to get real and get with the program -- which is to unite behind Hillary Clinton as the Democrat best positioned to be nominated and to win in November.

Many of my political friends are simply missing the import of the Sanders campaign. Much of his appeal is a blend of generational and economic.

The millennial generation has gotten the worst economic screwing since the generation that came of age in the Great Depression. In some ways, their plight is worse, since in the Depression generation there was broad understanding that an economic catastrophe had occurred and it was correctly understood as political.

Until very recently, the plight of the millennials was seen as merely personal. Questions that should be, and are, deeply political have been taken as private problems -- how to best cope with a bad economic environment; how to pick a shrewd career path given lousy choices. But it was only a matter of time before self-awareness of this reality finally took political form.

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Why Social Security Beats All Rivals -- And the Case for Expanding It

Robert Kuttner Co-Founder and Co-Editor, The American Prospect

Why Social Security Beats All Rivals -- And the Case for Expanding It

This is the season when we hear calls to cut Social Security. That's because of the annual trustees report on the system's financial condition.

Last week, the trustees reported that Social Security can pay all of its projected obligations through about 2034. To keep faith with today's workers and tomorrow's retirees, Social Security will need additional funds, though the shortfall is entirely manageable if we act in the next few years.

The report prompted the usual rightwing blarney about cutting benefits or privatizing Social Security, as well as familiar bleatings from billionaire deficit-hawks about the need to delay the retirement age for people far less fortunate.

One part of the system, the disability insurance fund, needs additional resources by 2016 -- and of course Republicans are calling for cuts in benefits to some of society's most needy people.

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The Tenure Conundrum

Robert Kuttner Co-Founder and Co-Editor, The American Prospect

The Tenure Conundrum

Republican presidential hopeful Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, thinks he's hit political pay dirt with his proposal to gut faculty tenure protections at his state's public universities, notably the flagship University of Wisconsin, long one of the nation's best state universities. His idea is to remove tenure protection from state law, and leave the actual policy to the Board of Regents, his political appointees.

For Walker, this is a three-fer. It's another attack on a public institution, in the wake of his successful campaign to weaken collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin public employees. It is a thinly disguised assault on a university perceived as a hotbed of liberals and liberalism. And it continues Walker's faux-populist theme by seemingly going after a bastion of privilege -- the elite, pointy-headed professoriate.

All this plays well with the Tea Party base. Walker needs to differentiate himself from the other presumed top-tier GOP contenders. Unlike Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, often mentioned with Walker and Jeb Bush as the leading candidates, Walker as a governor can point to his state as a laboratory of conservatism.

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7 Reasons Why the 99 Percent Keeps Losing

Robert Kuttner Co-Founder and Co-Editor, The American Prospect

Our current political situation is unprecedented. The vast majority of Americans keep falling behind economically because of changes in society's ground rules, while the rich get even richer—yet this situation doesn't translate into a winning politics.

If anything, the right keeps gaining and the wealthy keep pulling away. How can this possibly be?

Let me suggest seven reasons:

1. The Discrediting of Politics Itself

The Republican Party has devised a strategy of hamstringing government and making any remediation impossible. Instead of the voters punishing Republicans, the result is cynicism and passivity, so the Republican strategy is vindicated and rewarded.

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The United Kingdom Nearly Died for Maggie's Sins

Robert Kuttner Co-Founder and Co-Editor, The American Prospect

The United Kingdom Nearly Died for Maggie's Sins

Why on earth did the Scots, largely quiescent as part of Great Britain for three centuries, suddenly become the mouse that roared?

It wasn't because they became besotted watching re-runs of Braveheart or Rob Roy, or even because they coveted more of a share of North Sea oil revenues. No, the Scots got sick and tired of Thatcherite policies imposed from London.

Thanks to the partial form of federalism known as "devolution" provided by the Labour government of Tony Blair in 1997, Scotland got to keep such progressive policies as free higher education and an intact national health service, while the rest of the U.K. partly privatized the health service and began compelling young people to go into debt to finance college like their American cousins.

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Education Alone Is Not the Answer to Income Inequality and Slow Recovery

Robert Kuttner Co-Founder and Co-Editor, The American Prospect

Education Alone Is Not the Answer to Income Inequality and Slow Recovery

If everyone in America got a PhD, the job market would not be transformed. Mainly, we’d have a lot of frustrated, over-educated people.

The current period of widening inequality, after all, is one during which more and more Americans have been going to college. Conversely, the era of broadly distributed prosperity in the three decades after World War II was a time when many in the blue-collar middle class hadn’t graduated from high school.

I’m not disparaging education—it’s good for both the economy and the society to have a well-educated population. But the sources of equality and prosperity mainly lie elsewhere.

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Three Reasons Why Democrats Haven't Triumphed Over Republican Elitism -- Yet

Robert Kuttner Co-Founder and Co-Editor, The American Prospect

Three Reasons Why Democrats Haven't Triumphed Over Republican Elitism -- Yet

When you consider what has been happening to the average working person since the era of Ronald Reagan, it's amazing that the Republicans have fought the Democrats about to a draw.

The recipe of Reagan and both Bushes has been to weaken government, undermine the regulation of market excesses, attack core social insurance programs, tilt the tax system away from the wealthy and towards the middle class, gut the safeguards that protect workers on the job, make college ever more unaffordable, and appoint judges who undermine democracy itself.

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Stronger Together