Paul Starr

Paul Starr is co-editor of the The American Prospect. His most recent book is Remedy and Reaction: The Peculiar American Struggle over Health Care ReformClick here to read more about Starr.

Recent Articles

How Low Can You Go?


One argument for a sharp increase in tobacco taxes is that it would force smokers to pay for the increased medical costs they generate. But some economists say higher medical costs are only half the story. Peter Passell wrote last July in the New York Times that "a full accounting must also include the savings from smoking. Yes, savings: the reduced cost of private pensions, Social Security and nursing home care for smokers who die before their time." And on a full accounting, according to studies cited by Passell, the social costs of smoking may be too small even to justify current taxes, much less an increase.

The Martian Plan

Newt Gingrich thinks Americans need
a new frontier to explore. He also believes in paying bounties
to promote public objectives. Hence the proposal prepared at his
invitation by space entrepreneur Robert Zubrin for a federal bounty
of $20 billion payable to the first private organization that
puts someone on Mars and brings that man or woman back to earth
alive. The proposal is detailed in Zubrin's book,
The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why
We Must
(Free Press), and at
the "Headquarters for the
Mars Direct Manned Mars Mission" on the Web site,

How Low Can You Go? Made of Sterner Stuff


The Lewinsky investigation has put me to reflecting about the many
opportunities for rectitude that were missed in our past. Americans have now
been told, all too late, about the illicit sexual behavior of presidents from
Thomas Jefferson to JFK. Just think of how much better informed and more
righteous the American people might have been if the methods of uncovering the
truth familiar to us today had only been used when they could have really

How Low Can You Go?


Five mistakes in a single sentence must be some kind of record
for America's greatest newspaper. On August 17, in an article
about the new White House roles of Sidney Blumenthal and Paul
Begala ("Clinton Looks for Inspiration From the Left"),
the New York Times quoted the New Republic as saying
about Blumenthal, "A beat is just an assignment but a slut
is who you've become maybe."

The next day the Times admitted the following:

  1. The statement had not appeared in the New Republic.
  2. The statement was not a reference to Blumenthal.

How Low Can You Go?


As public broadcasting has long shown, there is a thin line between philanthropy and advertising that is well on its way to being completely erased. Consider the recent proliferation of corporate logos on endowed professorships, as reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Stanford has a Yahoo! chair of information systems technology; the University of Arizona has a Coca Cola distinguished professor of marketing; and Washington State has a Taco Bell distinguished professor of hotel and restaurant administration.

I'm impressed by what companies have done so far, but I'm waiting for William Bennett to get the General Electric Chair in Philosophy.