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

Responsible Fools: How the Democratic Candidates Got into a Social Security Fix

Do Social Security's potential fiscal problems in the 2040s really need to be addressed now by an increase in the payroll tax? It's not brave for the Democrats to put themselves on record for a tax increase -- it's just plain dumb.

It seems so reasonable, particularly to many Democrats. To solve the long-term shortfall in Social Security, why not tax all earnings instead of just the first $97,500? Wouldn't taxing pay above that level be the economically progressive and fiscally responsible way to solve Social Security's problems? Prodded by Tim Russert at the Democratic presidential debate in New Hampshire on September 26 -- and again in Philadelphia on October 30 -- several of the candidates agreed that it was the thing to do. Joe Biden endorsed the proposal without qualification. Barack Obama said lifting the cap was probably the best step. John Edwards also supported the idea, while saying he would apply the increase only to those making more than $200,000. None of those candidates challenged the premises of Russert's question that Social Security faces so dire a prognosis that only a big tax increase or cut in benefits can solve the problem. And when Hillary Clinton refused to endorse any specific remedy --...

The Iran Wedge

Between the GOP's wave of congressional retirements and its lackluster presidential candidates, the party's prospects are looking dim. But they have one cheerful possibility on the horizon: war with Iran.

Now is the season of Republican lethargy and discontent. A wave of retirements is dimming GOP congressional prospects, while the Republican presidential candidates have generated so little excitement that they are running behind the Democrats in fundraising and in the opinion polls. But there is one cheerful possibility on the horizon, and that is war with Iran. Until recently, I had thought that an attack on Iran, besides being strategically reckless for America, would be politically suicidal for the Republican Party. I am still convinced an attack would be reckless for the country, but I am beginning to see how it could work for the GOP. That the Bush administration might launch an airstrike to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities has for some time been the subject of intense speculation. During recent months, however, the administration has increasingly emphasized the claim that Iran is arming insurgents in Iraq. In the Oct. 8 issue of The New Yorker , Seymour Hersh reports that...

Hillarycare Mythology: Did Hillary Threaten Democratic Senators?

Carl Bernstein's oft-repeated account of Hillary Clinton during the push for health care reform in 1993 is of doubtful origin.

This piece is a companion to our October 2007 cover story "The Hillarycare Mythology." Carl Bernstein's biography of Hillary Clinton, A Woman in Charge , is the source of a story about her from 1993 -- including a threat she allegedly made to Democratic members of the U.S. Senate -- that has been cited repeatedly in the media in recent months as an illustration of her character. The real story, however, is that the episode probably never occurred as Bernstein reports it, and that mainstream publications have taken Bernstein's account on faith without double-checking the facts. According to Bernstein, at a political retreat for Senate Democrats in Virginia in late April 1993, Senator Bill Bradley asked whether the delay in submitting the president's health care legislation would require any changes to the plan. Hillary then responded "icily" that "there would be no changes because delay or not, the White House would ‘demonize' members of Congress and the medical establishment who would...

Hillary's Own Plan

Senator Clinton's health proposal signals a new phase in the long struggle for universal health insurance. Here's how her new plan compares to the 1993 Clinton Health Security Plan.

Hillary Clinton's "American Health Choices Plan," released September 17, opens a new chapter in the struggle for health care reform, though you would never know it from the predictable reactions on both sides of the political spectrum. From the Republicans came the usual cries of "socialized medicine," even though the proposal builds on the existing system and calls for three features that have long been part of some conservative proposals: a mandate for individuals to carry insurance coverage, choice among competing health plans, and the use of tax credits to help make coverage affordable. From the left came the usual charges that anything less than a single-payer plan is a boondoggle for the insurance industry, even though Senator Clinton proposes a new Medicare-like public plan to be offered as an option to employers and individuals and new national rules for insurers that would dramatically change how they operate. The novelty of Senator Clinton's plan is not in its broad...

Iraq Trap 2

Democrats should not promise an impossible victory, only an honorable end to the Iraq War as expediently as possible.

"Americans only want tragedies with happy endings," the novelist and critic William Dean Howells once said, and that strain in our culture seems to be at work once again in the debate about Iraq. Many of the war's original supporters now concede it was a tragic mistake, but they're still holding out for it to end happily. Like the president, they grasp at a few positive statistics or favorable developments in one province, struggling to sustain the hope that bad decisions can be made right if only our troops stay in Iraq until we turn things around. And so they lend their assistance in the laying of a trap. Iraq Trap 1 was the war itself -- America stuck in the sands of Mesopotamia, lured there by false claims about weapons of mass destruction and promises of a conflict that would be quick and easy. Iraq Trap 2 is a political trap -- a way that the Republicans may have found to win the war at home by setting up the next president to take the blame when that president is likely to be a...