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

A 20-Year Tug-of-War

Neither liberals nor conservatives have been able to claim lasting power. But we have an advantage: real solutions.

President-elect Bush meets with Vice President Al Gore, Dec. 19, 2000. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
It's months before the November elections, and Republicans have practically broken out the champagne to celebrate their coming victories, while many liberals are chalking up prospective losses to the failure of the president and congressional Democrats to be ambitious enough. Excuse me if I don't join in the "precriminations." The elections may turn out badly, but the achievements of the administration's first year and a half have been more than respectable, and I doubt that more progressive policies could have borne fruit quickly enough to alter the results in November. Nor do I believe that Democrats have overreached, only to suffer the predictable reaction from a "center right" society. If the economy were growing smartly, the conservative complaints about too much government would have little resonance. But the facts are what they are. Most Americans have felt the impact of the recession only since Barack Obama took office, and though they can't hold him responsible for the...

Better Than Tea

Let the Republicans drink the Tea Party's brew. Progressives shouldn't wish for the equivalent.

Something feels wrong about the state of American politics. With millions unemployed and home foreclosures at record levels, the country is still suffering acutely from the recession's effects, yet the Tea Party is the only movement that can put thousands of people into the streets. How is it that so soon after activists helped Barack Obama win the presidency, the left is quiet while feet march and fires burn on the right? Many progressives blame Obama, saying that he fell in with the wrong crowd in Washington and Wall Street, gave too much ground on policy, failed to mobilize his grass-roots organization, and lost his true voice, at least until the final weeks of the health-care battle when he barnstormed the nation and looked like the candidate the public elected in 2008. Envious of the Tea Party's angry crowds, even saying they sympathize with them, these progressives yearn for Democrats to express that same populist anger -- but to direct it against the big banks and other...

The Opt-Out Compromise

How to let individuals out of the insurance mandate and improve the odds of health-care reform.

President Barack Obama at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pa., Monday, March 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
If the House of Representatives passes the Senate health-care reform bill with the changes recommended by President Barack Obama, and the Senate then passes those final changes through reconciliation, no one will be more pleased than I (see " Underrating Reform " in the Prospect 's March issue). But suppose that after the White House and congressional leadership press their case, twist arms, and count heads, they are still short of the votes they need. Should they just give up on the legislation, or can they make any additional concession to attract votes while preserving the aims of reform? Last Thursday, in an op-ed in The New York Times that built on a November article in the Prospect , I proposed a change that may help gain the votes of some conservative Democrats and assuage the concerns of many Americans who object in principle, or out of fear, to a federal health-insurance mandate. My proposal would enable a congressman to say to constituents angry about the federal mandate, "...

Last Chance for Health Reform

Neither the progressive nor the anti-abortion House Democrats are making any sense in threatening to kill the Senate bill.

(White House/Pete Souza)
The following column was written before the release of President Obama’s proposed changes to the Senate health-reform bill. Those changes, to be made through the budget-reconciliation process, should reduce objections from House Democrats on several points. In particular, the president proposes to raise the threshold for the excise tax on high-cost health plans to $27,500 and to postpone it to 2018. A compromise on these lines should help ease the transition to a new system of coverage with better incentives to control costs. After the House and Senate passed similar health-care reform bills late last year, Democrats seemed unlikely to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But as of early February, that looks to be the outcome unless House Democrats come to their senses and vote for the bill the Senate approved in December, preferably with changes made through the Senate's 51-vote budget-reconciliation process but without those changes if necessary. Before the Massachusetts election...

Underrating Reform

Even with its compromises, health reform is the most ambitious effort in decades to reorganize a big part of life around principles of justice and efficiency.

Sen. Ben Nelson and Joseph Lieberman. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)
If Congress can complete work on health-care legislation and send it to the president (as of mid-January, the final bill is still under negotiation), it will be a stunning historical achievement and the most important liberal reform since the 1960s. It may also be the most underappreciated social legislation in recent history. Never in my experience has such a big reform been treated as so small. Never have Democratic members of Congress who are putting their careers on the line for something they believe in been so vilified as sellouts by influential progressives. And never have those progressives been so grudging in their endorsement of landmark legislation or so willing to see it defeated. How this happened is clear. Facing united Republican opposition, Democratic leaders made a series of concessions to win over centrists in their own caucus and to neutralize key interest groups. One point of contention -- the public option -- came to symbolize hopes on the left, and when that...

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