Paul Starr

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

Why We Need Social Security

For nearly three-quarters of a century, Americans have taken Social Security for granted. Now we had better learn how it works, what it has done, and what the true facts are regarding its future -- or else we are going to lose it. Superficially, Social Security resembles traditional employer pensions: Americans pay into the system during their working years and receive a monthly pension during retirement. But the differences are fundamental. Social Security benefits are based on a balancing of two principles: equity and adequacy. Equity means that what you put in is related to what you get out; in other words, workers with higher wages, who pay more into the system, receive higher benefits later on. But under the principle of adequacy, the Social Security benefit formula overlooks years of low earnings (for example, when a worker may have been disabled or unemployed), and it replaces a higher proportion of earnings for the poor than for the rich. That's why it's our most successful anti-...

Security Flaws

Republican plans to privatize social security raise two different security questions. One is the impact on the retirement security of workers if they become dependent on the stock market for their basic livelihood in old age. The other concerns the nation's security if, as news reports indicate, the Republicans decide that rather than raise taxes, the government will borrow the money to finance the shift to private accounts. The Congressional Budget Office already projects a federal deficit of $2.3 trillion over the next 10 years. Making the Bush tax cuts permanent, as the president urges, would add another $1.9 trillion. But the total of $4.2 trillion is a low estimate because it allows for no adjustment for population growth and inflation in discretionary programs, not to mention future costs in Iraq or other wars. Borrowing the funds for Social Security privatization would raise deficits by $2 trillion more. From whom will we borrow the money? These days about three-fifths of the...

Security Flaws

Republican plans to privatize social security raise two different security questions. One is the impact on the retirement security of workers if they become dependent on the stock market for their basic livelihood in old age. The other concerns the nation's security if, as news reports indicate, the Republicans decide that rather than raise taxes, the government will borrow the money to finance the shift to private accounts. The Congressional Budget Office already projects a federal deficit of $2.3 trillion over the next 10 years. Making the Bush tax cuts permanent, as the president urges, would add another $1.9 trillion. But the total of $4.2 trillion is a low estimate because it allows for no adjustment for population growth and inflation in discretionary programs, not to mention future costs in Iraq or other wars. Borrowing the funds for Social Security privatization would raise deficits by $2 trillion more. From whom will we borrow the money? These days about three-fifths of the...

Morals of the Election

What has the past half-century of our history achieved if not a moral transformation? Equal rights and respect for black people have been a moral cause. So, too, have equality for women and open acceptance of gays. Liberals have advocated each of these causes, often turning to the courts when elected leaders were slow to respond. Insofar as politicians have welcomed and supported these movements, they have chiefly been Democrats. And the Democratic Party has paid for its principles from one decade to the next, losing support in the South, among men, and among those with more traditional beliefs. By the 1990s, though Democrats still had a rough parity with Republicans, they were no longer a majority party. The 2000 election proved the tipping point, and 2004 has finished the process, reducing the Democrats to a minority position. As the Democrats' Senate losses confirm, the political realignment of the South is now a done deal. In the presidential vote, a substantial Republican...

Morals of the Election

What has the past half-century of our history achieved if not a moral transformation? Equal rights and respect for black people have been a moral cause. So, too, have equality for women and open acceptance of gays. Liberals have advocated each of these causes, often turning to the courts when elected leaders were slow to respond. Insofar as politicians have welcomed and supported these movements, they have chiefly been Democrats. And the Democratic Party has paid for its principles from one decade to the next, losing support in the South, among men, and among those with more traditional beliefs. By the 1990s, though Democrats still had a rough parity with Republicans, they were no longer a majority party. The 2000 election proved the tipping point, and 2004 has finished the process, reducing the Democrats to a minority position. As the Democrats' Senate losses confirm, the political realignment of the South is now a done deal. In the presidential vote, a substantial Republican...

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