Jewish World Review Nov. 30, 2001/ 15 Kislev, 5762


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Consumer Reports

A weak-tea Eugene V. Debs -- ROBERT KUTTNER, The American Prospect's co-editor, is one demented dude. Talk about acid flashbacks. In the Dec. 3 issue, Kuttner wrote a piece, "The Business of America," that was so ludicrous that a first-time reader of the magazine would swear it was a parody.

He writes: "Old-time anti-corporate liberals, such as trade unionists and Naderites, are said to be stuck in a 1930s time warp. But every so often, politics offers a graphic reminder of why good liberals are necessarily anti-business. Successful individual entrepreneurs and dynamic corporations are certainly economic assets; the problem is organized business as a political force-how it corrupts our politics, skews priorities, disdains workers, and blocks democracy from carrying out the wishes of ordinary citizens."

He goes on to make the fatuous claim that most Americans desire national health insurance, campaign finance reform, universal pre-kindergarten education and child care and a scuttling of the 1996 welfare-reform legislation. Kuttner concludes: "So the next time you hear people call liberals anti-business, wear the label as a badge. Remind them that every social advance of modern America has required liberals to beat organized business bloody."

Kuttner's embrace of entrepreneurs rings hollow. Coincidentally, on the page next to his essay is a full-page comic by Dan Perkins, a left-wing artist who's managed, through hard work, to carve out a burgeoning career for himself. His predictable strip, "This Modern World," is carried by countless weekly newspapers; last week he captured the back page of The New Yorker, a coup that will undoubtedly bring him more assignments from the monkey-see, monkey-do magazine editors in New York and Washington, DC. It's not inconceivable that Perkins might land a lucrative tv show or big-ticket movie in the near future, and I hope he does. But Kuttner might not approve because that'd mean Perkins would have to hire people and deal with organized business, in this case, Hollywood.

Consider the case of Matt Groening, the Simpsons creator whose rags-to-riches career started in the late 70s when he distributed newspapers for the Los Angeles Reader and then convinced an editor to print his cartoon "Life in Hell." The strip took off in the early 80s, and now he's a wealthy man who employs countless artists, assistants, writers and whomever else it takes to produce his classic sitcom and merchandise outlets. One wonders how Kuttner will react when Groening's enterprise inevitably runs into labor problems.

G-d only know what the antibusiness warrior thinks about Bill Gates, a "dynamic" entrepreneur who was so visionary that he, along with several other tech pioneers, transformed the American way of life, from business to shopping to information-gathering to communications. A man who was so successful in his original bedroom/garage workspace that he was the unfair object of a 1930s-style Justice Dept. spate of lawsuits. In Kuttner's world, Harvard dropout Gates would be beaten to a bloody pulp for the crime of leading an "organized business" that was the fruition of his perseverance, long hours and refusal to follow the safe career path of, say, a grubby trial lawyer.

JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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© 2001, Russ Smith