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

End of the Private New Deal

A ripple of economic anxiety passed through middle America this spring when a bankrupt United Airlines ditched its pension obligations and General Motors announced it would cut 25,000 jobs. That's capitalism, you may say: Individual companies rise and fall, and America's prosperity should never be equated with their fortunes. But United's abandonment of its pensions and GM's deepening troubles highlight a larger worry that ought to be a focus of our politics. The old corporate America that took responsibility for workers' pensions and health care is dying, and the nation's political leadership has hardly taken notice of the implications. The rise of corporate social protection had a huge impact, and so will its decline. Conservatives long touted employer-provided pensions and health plans as the private alternative to big government -- the very epitome, supposedly, of the American way. Liberals were ambivalent: Although employer benefits provided security for many workers, especially...

The Liberal Project Now

Liberalism is at greater risk now than at any time in recent American history. The risk is of political marginality, even irrelevance. And the reason is not just a shift in partisan control of the federal government. There has been a radical change in the relationship of ideology and power in America. Only by renewing both the principled commitments to liberal ideals and the practical basis of liberal politics does liberalism have any chance of recovery. Fifty years ago, the absence of ideological divisions was widely thought to be one of the distinguishing features of American politics. Now our politics is rife with ideological conflict, as conservatives take their crusade to remake America deeper into liberal terrain. The issue is no longer, as it was in the earlier stages of conservatism's revival, merely a reversal of Great Society programs and the activism of the Warren Court. What's now under attack are such basic constitutional principles as church-state separation and an...

The Liberal Project Now

Liberalism is at greater risk now than at any time in recent American history. The risk is of political marginality, even irrelevance. And the reason is not just a shift in partisan control of the federal government. There has been a radical change in the relationship of ideology and power in America. Only by renewing both the principled commitments to liberal ideals and the practical basis of liberal politics does liberalism have any chance of recovery. Fifty years ago, the absence of ideological divisions was widely thought to be one of the distinguishing features of American politics. Now our politics is rife with ideological conflict, as conservatives take their crusade to remake America deeper into liberal terrain. The issue is no longer, as it was in the earlier stages of conservatism's revival, merely a reversal of Great Society programs and the activism of the Warren Court. What's now under attack are such basic constitutional principles as church-state separation and an...

Little Magazine, Big Ideas

The American Prospect began with a small circulation and great ambitions. Our aim was to rethink ideas about public policy and politics and thereby to restore plausibility and persuasiveness to American liberalism. The first issue appeared in spring 1990, a historical moment in some respects like today: Democrats had lost successive presidential elections, there was a George Bush in the White House, conservatives were pushing schemes for privatization, and liberals were in disarray. But in 1990, Congress was still in Democratic hands, the Cold War was coming to an end with the Soviet collapse, and the focus of politics was turning from foreign to domestic policy. Rising economic anxieties, it seemed, might spur political change just as a “peace dividend” could finance new initiatives. By historic good fortune, the Prospect had arrived at a time not only of global change but of “liberal opportunity,” as Arthur Schlesinger Jr., called it in the first issue, which carried a cover image...

The Price of a Free Society

These are times that try liberal spirits. On one side, the Bush administration has taken up the agenda of the Christian right and sought to use the power of the state to shape how Americans live and die. On the other, it is undermining many of the positive accomplishments of government, such as Social Security, labor and environmental regulation, consumer protections, and federal responsibilities for health care. Some of the challenges are overt, as in the privatization of Social Security. Others are less conspicuous, as in the quiet abandonment of regulatory enforcement. Conservatives love the Bush tax cuts because they have set us on a fiscal course that makes severe cutbacks in federal programs appear inexorable. Under assault is the core liberal idea that we can use government to provide for the common good and protect our safety, security, and well-being even as we prohibit government from controlling our private lives and compromising our liberties. Lately, however, in the face...

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