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

The Wieseltier Moment -- a Tipping Point

With the ouster of Leon Wieseltier for a long, sordid history of hitting on young women who worked in junior positions at The New Republic where he was literary editor for three decades, the women’s movement has achieved a goal that has eluded it for centuries. Powerful men, famous or not, are no longer exempt from being held accountable. Masses of women are willing to tell their stories. Boards of directors are compelled to act.

It was one thing for celebrity offenders to fall from grace—Cosby, Weinstein, et al. Leon Wieseltier is not a major celebrity, except perhaps in his own eyes. He’s a literary intellectual, who was about to launch a new quarterly magazine called Idea, underwritten by Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs.

Wieseltier, with the appropriate literary flourish, issued an abject mea culpa:

For my offenses against some of my colleagues in the past I offer a shaken apology and ask for their forgiveness. The women with whom I worked are smart and good people. I am ashamed to know that I made any of them feel demeaned and disrespected. I assure them that I will not waste this reckoning.

Presumably he was aware of these serial offenses and shames before they went public? Maybe not.

It wasn’t enough to save his neck. When the litany of complaints surfaced, his benefactor Powell Jobs not only fired Wieseltier but killed the magazine.

When most regular people outside literary circles read the stories, their reaction was …. Leon who? But if Wieseltier can be held accountable, so will many thousands of others.

All over America today, men who held positions of power that they abused sexually two or ten or 20 years ago, are feeling just sick. You never know which former underling will decide to speak up, and whose heads will roll.

That includes college professors, executives of middling enterprises, managers of fast-food joints, directors of nonprofits—anyone and everyone. It’s about time.

This is an epochal tipping point. There will be a long overdue reckoning, and then maybe—maybe—men in positions of power will stop doing this, or at least think very hard about the risks. And women—all women—will feel, and be, newly empowered.

Virtue is said to be its own reward. In this case, virtue is also conducive to sound sleep for men who did not abuse their positions of power for sexual favors or coercions.

In social revolutions, change comes very slowly, and then abruptly. But the deeper change will be behavioral. Consensual hanky-panky will not end, but when there is an imbalance of power there is no such thing as consensual.

Wieseltier’s public shaming will be the first of many such falls from grace of non-celebrity offenders. And more men will behave more decently, or at least more prudently.

Is Trump Smart Enough to Reappoint Janet Yellen?

(AP Photo/Dake Kang)
(AP Photo/Dake Kang) Fed Chair Janet Yellen speaks to a student at a job training center in Cleveland on September 26, 2017. D onald Trump would be wise to reappoint Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. Trump has said he will decide by early November. Keeping Yellen would plainly serve Trump’s political interests. Yellen’s stewardship of the Fed has kept the recovery on track, stimulated inflation-free economic growth, and even permitted a little wage growth despite the wreckage of unions and the loss of labor power in the gig economy. The result is also record stock market levels. Yellen is one of Barack Obama’s best appointees, and perhaps the best Fed chair ever . Thanks to Yellen, Trump enjoys bragging rights for an economic boom not of his own making. So what’s not to like? For one thing, there’s the inescapable, galling fact that Trump’s nemesis, Obama, appointed her. For another, Yellen is a liberal Democrat. And third, Yellen found the economic sweet spot by combining strong...

What If Trump Wins on Obamacare and Taxes?

AP Photo/Evan Vucci
AP Photo/Evan Vucci President Donald Trump makes a statement in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House. U ntil lately, Democrats have been comforting themselves over Trump’s nearly unbroken string of legislative losses. Despite a Republican majority in both houses of Congress, Trump and different factions of the GOP kept tripping over each other, denying him key legislative victories. His penchant for insulting leading Republican senators only adds to the dysfunction. Now, however, Trump may actually win a few. Consider the Affordable Care Act. Trump has found a way to cripple it via executive power, first by withholding insurance subsidies that are key to making the program affordable. By doing so, he destabilizes insurance markets, and courts the indignant opposition of every major medical and hospital group, as well as the insurance industry and many Republican politicians whose constituents have gained coverage under the ACA. But Trump’s sick obsession is to expunge...

We Need Barack Obama to Speak Out

(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez) Former President Barack Obamaspeaks during the Goalkeepers Conference hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on September 20, 2017, in New York. N ot much ties together the incoherent ideology of Donald Trump, but one signal is all too clear through the noise: If Barack Obama did it, Trump is obsessively determined to expunge it—never mind whether the policy is good or bad, never mind how the policy comports with Trump’s other goals. Expunging Obama and his achievements is among the most overtly racist aspects of Trump’s none-too-subtle racism. Obama gave us eight years of leadership. This is his reward. Expunging Obama describes Trump’s crusade to destroy the Affordable Care Act, which in Republican demonology even carries his loathed predecessor’s name—Obamacare. It describes Trump’s insane decision to swamp one of the few islands of stability in the Middle East, the Iran nuclear deal, a superb and risky act of presidential statesmanship that paid...

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