Paul Starr

Paul Starr is co-founder and co-editor of the The American Prospect. and professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction and the Bancroft Prize in American history, he is the author of seven books, including most recently Remedy and Reaction: The Peculiar American Struggle over Heath Care Reform (Yale University Press, revised ed. 2013). Click here to read more about Starr.

Recent Articles

The Republican Lock

The 2004 election is really only about one question: whether the Republican Party will enjoy thorough and unchecked power in all branches of the federal government. Despite the virtually even split in the American electorate, conservatives have every reason to expect that November will bring them total political control. Four years ago, America had what I described in these pages as a "parliamentary election." So close was the political balance that either party had the chance to take the legislative and executive branches at the same time. And because of the surpluses built up during the preceding years of divided government, the winning party would come into office with the resources to carry out an ambitious program. It was a moment of rare historic opportunity -- and the Republicans seized it. They won the House, Senate and presidency, each by a hair, and immediately enacted a radical program of tax cuts. In retrospect, 2000 was also a tipping-point election. Once in power, the...

The New Politics of Medicare

The passage of the Republican Medicare overhaul, with its new prescription-drug benefit provided wholly by private insurers, was a huge political victory for the president and an ideological triumph for conservatives. Unlike Bill Clinton 10 years ago, George W. Bush promised an extension of health coverage and has now delivered it. Conservatives, moreover, have succeeded in laying the foundations for privatizing Medicare. Or have they? Even as Bush signed the legislation on Dec. 8, polls showed more Americans opposing it than supporting it, and the reception isn't likely to grow more friendly as the elderly learn more of the details. The bill purports to offer choice to seniors but actually limits their choices in ways that they will likely see as illegitimate. The most striking restriction is a prohibition against supplementary insurance. Under Medicare today, the elderly can buy "Medigap" coverage to make up for the program's limitations. Under the new prescription benefit, besides...

The President's New Crusade

On Nov. 6, George W. Bush claimed the legacy of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan in a speech setting out a "forward strategy" to extend freedom and democracy to the Islamic nations of the Middle East. Liberty, the president said, is the "plan of heaven for humanity," which seemed to imply, in an echo from centuries past, that our form of government is divinely inspired. He also called liberty "the design of nature," "the direction of history" and the "best hope for progress," arguing that it is America's "calling" -- our Manifest Destiny, so to speak -- to advance freedom in the rest of the world. The speech had many fine words and noble ideas. "Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe," the president said, "because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty." But though some of Bush's sentiments were admirable, we need to put his speech in context and...

The Democrats' Military Option

Count me among the skeptics as to whether a politically untested general can successfully run the gauntlet of a Democratic presidential-primary campaign in America today. The organizational confusion, inconsistent statements and other troubles that beset Wesley Clark in the first weeks of his campaign all testified to his lack of political experience. But count me also a believer in the potential payoff in reframing the national political debate if Clark allays these early concerns and captures the Democratic nomination. To many in the party, the chief appeal of the retired general is that he insulates Democrats from charges of being unpatriotic or weak on national security. Yet on domestic issues, Clark's military background may also prove an important, unanticipated asset. During the past several decades, the American military has become a model of successful social reform. Perhaps the best example is racial integration. While many other institutions remain nearly as segregated...

Elections as an Exit Strategy

In central Iraq the United States now has its own West Bank, its own encounter with terrorism as a routine occurrence rather than a rare event. As George W. Bush likes to say, we have carried the fight to the enemy -- and now are conveniently at hand to be shot at and blown up by enemies we might never have had. And because of the failure of diplomacy before the war, our forces are in the heart of Mesopotamia nearly alone, without the benefit of the broad international alliances and institutions that were the cornerstones of American foreign policy for more than half a century until this administration took office and treated those allies and institutions with contempt. In his televised speech on Sept. 7, the president stopped dissembling about one aspect of the situation. Before the invasion, the administration assured the public that Iraq would be able to finance its own reconstruction. Now Bush finally had to tell Americans that this isn't so. But in asking Congress for $87 billion...

Pages