Paul Starr

Paul Starr is co-founder and co-editor of 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 eight books, including Entrenchment: Wealth, Power, and the Constitution of Democratic Societies, which will be out next year.

Recent Articles

Offering the Young a New Deal

This article originally appeared in . A few years ago, watching TV with my teenage son, I was struck by a point that financial-advice guru Suze Orman made to an audience of college students. What assets in America, she asked, are undervalued? Certainly not stocks, nor residential housing. The prices for both of those had skyrocketed. No, she said, pointing to the audience: You're the asset that America is still undervaluing. And she was right. Orman's point was that in order to get ahead, young people have to invest in themselves, which is certainly true. But that kind of investment isn't only an individual or family responsibility. America benefits when it invests in its young. After World War II, the GI Bill enabled young veterans and their families to obtain higher education, job training, health care, and home mortgages. The Greatest Generation got a great boost, and the investment paid off not just for the members of that generation, but for the country as a...

Is Rising Inequality Reversible?

New figures came out at the end of march showing that income inequality in 2005 reached the highest levels since the 1920s. By coincidence, presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani that same day declared his support for the flat tax and received the endorsement of Steve Forbes. That the current front-runner for the Republican nomination could believe it was in his political interest to call for an end to progressive taxation says a lot about how far his party has to go in recognizing one of the central economic and moral challenges of our time. Although the basic story of growing economic disparities has become depressingly familiar, the latest report on trends in income is so shocking that it ought to serve as a political wake-up call. During 2005 (the most recent year for which data are available), total income reported to the Internal Revenue Service rose by 9 percent, but all the gains went to the richest tenth. Income for the other 90 percent of Americans declined by 0.6 percent. In...

Why Liberalism Works

Liberalism is deeply rooted in American soil, so much so that in the years after World War II, many historians and social scientists regarded the liberal project and the American civic creed as more or less the same. The proposition that each of us has a right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" remains as good a definition as anyone has ever come up with of liberalism's first principle and America's historic promise. For some time, however, contemporary liberalism has been under political siege in the United States, and even liberals have at times appeared uncertain about what they stand for. In recent decades, national political leaders who are unquestionably liberal have often been unwilling to say so and unable to articulate a compelling public philosophy, while public-opinion surveys show that many Americans who support liberal positions do not identify themselves as liberals. Lately, though, the right has been facing its own loss of confidence. No one, not even...


CAUTIONARY NOTE. I am not yet convinced that Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama can overcome the obvious obstacles to their election. According to the latest New York Times/CBS poll , if the election were held now, Americans would choose an unnamed Democrat over an unnamed Republican by a 20-point margin. Nonetheless, both Clinton and Obama have run behind in polls first to John McCain and now to Rudy Giuliani . Are Democrats so sure the country has put sexism and racism to rest that they want to bet the future of the country on that proposition? I wish I felt confident that was true. Perhaps as we get closer to next February I will. I'd like to think so. Full post at Freedom's Power . --Paul Starr

Deadline Dilemmas

The strange thing about the debate in Congress over a deadline for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq is that the objective political interests of the two parties are the reverse of their stated positions. Republicans are facing a disaster in the 2008 election if the Iraq War continues unabated. But if the Democratic Congress ties the president's hands and forces a pullout, the Republicans would have an excuse for the war's failure, and their party could move on to focus the 2008 election on other issues. If GOP leaders could act on pure political self-interest, they would be secretly encouraging just enough defections by their own members of Congress to pass legislation requiring a pullout. Conversely, if Democrats succeed in setting a deadline, they would be taking some responsibility upon themselves for what happens in the wake of a pullout, and they would lose the advantage of focusing the 2008 election on the war. The Democrats' political interest lies in demonstrating a...