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About Robert Kuttner
Kuttner is author of eleven books, including the 2008 New York Times best seller, Obama's Challenge. His other writing has appeared in The Atlantic, the New Yorker, Harpers, the New York Review of Books, the New Republic, Foreign Affairs, Dissent, New Statesman, Harvard Business Review, Columbia Journalism Review, Political Science Quarterly, and the New York Times Magazine and New York Times Book Review. He has contributed major articles for the New England Journal of Medicine as a national policy correspondent. He is a featured columnist for Huffington Post.
He previously served as a national staff writer on the Washington Post, chief investigator of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, economics editor of The New Republic, and was a longtime columnist for Business Week and for the Boston Globe, syndicated by the Washington Post. He is the two-time winner of the Sidney Hillman Journalism Award, the John Hancock Award for Excellence in Business and Financial Journalism, the Jack London Award for Labor Writing, and the Paul G. Hoffman Award of the United Nations Development Program for his lifetime work on economic efficiency and social justice. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow, Woodrow Wilson Fellow, German Marshall Fund Fellow, and John F. Kennedy Fellow.
Educated at Oberlin College, The London School of Economics, and the University of California at Berkeley, Kuttner is the recipient of honorary degrees from Swarthmore College and Oberlin. In addition to Brandeis, he has also taught at the University of Massachusetts, the University of Oregon, Boston University and Harvard's Institute of Politics. He lives in Boston with his wife, Joan Fitzgerald, a professor of public policy at Northeastern. He is the father of two grown children and has six grandchildren.
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“Democracy is no longer writing the rules for capitalism; instead it is the other way around. With his deep insight and wide learning, Kuttner is among our best guides for understanding how we reached this point and what’s at stake if we stay on our current path.”—Heather McGhee, president of Demos
With a new Afterword
In the past few decades, the wages of most workers have stagnated, even as productivity increased. Social supports have been cut, while corporations have achieved record profits. What is going on? According to Robert Kuttner, global capitalism is to blame. By limiting workers’ rights, liberating bankers, and allowing corporations to evade taxation, raw capitalism strikes at the very foundation of a healthy democracy. Capitalism should serve democracy and not the other way around. One result of this misunderstanding is the large number of disillusioned voters who supported the faux populism of Donald Trump. Charting a plan for bold action based on political precedent, Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism? is essential reading for anyone eager to reverse the decline of democracy in the West.
To save both democracy and a decent economy, here’s why it’s crucial that Americans elect a truly progressive president.
The 2020 presidential election will determine the very survival of American democracy. To restore popular faith in government—and win the election—Democrats need to nominate and elect an economic progressive. The Stakes explains how the failure of the economy to serve ordinary Americans opened the door to a demagogic president, and how democracy can still be taken back from Donald Trump.
Either the United States continues the long slide into the arms of the bankers and corporate interests and the disaffection of working Americans—the course set in the past half century by Republican and Democratic presidents alike—or we elect a progressive Democrat in the mold of FDR. At stake is nothing less than the continued success of the American experiment in liberal democracy. That success is dependent on a fairer distribution of income, wealth, and life changes —and a reduction in the political influence of financial elites over both parties.
The decay of democracy and economic fairness began long before Trump. The American republic is in need of a massive overhaul. It will take not just a resounding Democratic victory in 2020 but a progressive victory to pull back from the brink of autocracy. The Stakes demonstrates how a progressive Democrat has a better chance than a centrist of winning the presidency, and how only this outcome can begin the renewal of the economy and our democracy.
A passionate book from one of America’s best political analysts, The Stakes is the book to read ahead of the 2020 primaries and general election.
One of our foremost economic thinkers challenges a cherished tenet of today’s financial orthodoxy: that spending less, refusing to forgive debt, and shrinking government—“austerity”—is the solution to a persisting economic crisis like ours or Europe’s, now in its fifth year.
Since the collapse of September 2008, the conversation about economic recovery has centered on the question of debt: whether we have too much of it, whose debt to forgive, and how to cut the deficit. These questions dominated the sound bites of the 2012 U.S. presidential election, the fiscal-cliff debates, and the perverse policies of the European Union.
Robert Kuttner makes the most powerful argument to date that these are the wrong questions and that austerity is the wrong answer. Blending economics with historical contrasts of effective debt relief and punitive debt enforcement, he makes clear that universal belt-tightening, as a prescription for recession, defies economic logic. And while the public debt gets most of the attention, it is private debts that crashed the economy and are sandbagging the recovery—mortgages, student loans, consumer borrowing to make up for lagging wages, speculative shortfalls incurred by banks. As Kuttner observes, corporations get to use bankruptcy to walk away from debts. Homeowners and small nations don’t. Thus, we need more public borrowing and investment to revive a depressed economy, and more forgiveness and reform of the overhang of past debts.
In making his case, Kuttner uncovers the double standards in the politics of debt, from Robinson Crusoe author Daniel Defoe’s campaign for debt forgiveness in the seventeenth century to the two world wars and Bretton Woods. Just as debtors’ prisons once prevented individuals from surmounting their debts and resuming productive life, austerity measures shackle, rather than restore, economic growth—as the weight of past debt crushes the economy’s future potential. Above all, Kuttner shows how austerity serves only the interest of creditors—the very bankers and financial elites whose actions precipitated the collapse. Lucid, authoritative, provocative—a book that will shape the economic conversation and the search for new solutions.
The American economy is in peril. It has fallen hostage to a casino of financial speculation, creating instability as well as inequality. Tens of millions of workers are vulnerable to layoffs and outsourcing, health care and retirement burdens are increasingly being shifted from employers to individuals. Here Kuttner debunks alarmist claims about supposed economic hazards and exposes the genuine dangers: hedge funds and private equity run amok, sub-prime lenders, Wall Street middlemen, and America's dependence on foreign central banks. He then outlines a persuasive, bold alternative, a new model of managed capitalism that can deliver security and opportunity, and rekindle democracy as we know it.