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

Judicial Overreach

It's not clear who should have been celebrating when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in early February that the state has to provide gay couples the right to marry and nothing less. The decision barred the Massachusetts legislature from adopting a law authorizing "civil unions" in which "spouses" would have "all the same benefits, protections, rights and responsibilities under law as are granted to spouses in a marriage." Not enough, the judges declared, guaranteeing that Massachusetts legislators would put before the state's voters a constitutional amendment reversing the court's decision and galvanizing conservatives across the country to add a ban on gay marriage to the federal constitution. Meanwhile, New Jersey enacted a law allowing same-sex (and other) couples to enter into "domestic partnerships" that carry most of the rights and obligations of a marriage. The New Jersey statute isn't actually as broad as the Massachusetts civil-union legislation would have been...

The Republican Lock

The 2004 election is really only about one question: whether the Republican Party will enjoy thorough and unchecked power in all branches of the federal government. Despite the virtually even split in the American electorate, conservatives have every reason to expect that November will bring them total political control. Four years ago, America had what I described in these pages as a "parliamentary election." So close was the political balance that either party had the chance to take the legislative and executive branches at the same time. And because of the surpluses built up during the preceding years of divided government, the winning party would come into office with the resources to carry out an ambitious program. It was a moment of rare historic opportunity -- and the Republicans seized it. They won the House, Senate and presidency, each by a hair, and immediately enacted a radical program of tax cuts. In retrospect, 2000 was also a tipping-point election. Once in power, the...

The New Politics of Medicare

The passage of the Republican Medicare overhaul, with its new prescription-drug benefit provided wholly by private insurers, was a huge political victory for the president and an ideological triumph for conservatives. Unlike Bill Clinton 10 years ago, George W. Bush promised an extension of health coverage and has now delivered it. Conservatives, moreover, have succeeded in laying the foundations for privatizing Medicare. Or have they? Even as Bush signed the legislation on Dec. 8, polls showed more Americans opposing it than supporting it, and the reception isn't likely to grow more friendly as the elderly learn more of the details. The bill purports to offer choice to seniors but actually limits their choices in ways that they will likely see as illegitimate. The most striking restriction is a prohibition against supplementary insurance. Under Medicare today, the elderly can buy "Medigap" coverage to make up for the program's limitations. Under the new prescription benefit, besides...

The President's New Crusade

On Nov. 6, George W. Bush claimed the legacy of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan in a speech setting out a "forward strategy" to extend freedom and democracy to the Islamic nations of the Middle East. Liberty, the president said, is the "plan of heaven for humanity," which seemed to imply, in an echo from centuries past, that our form of government is divinely inspired. He also called liberty "the design of nature," "the direction of history" and the "best hope for progress," arguing that it is America's "calling" -- our Manifest Destiny, so to speak -- to advance freedom in the rest of the world. The speech had many fine words and noble ideas. "Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe," the president said, "because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty." But though some of Bush's sentiments were admirable, we need to put his speech in context and...

The Democrats' Military Option

Count me among the skeptics as to whether a politically untested general can successfully run the gauntlet of a Democratic presidential-primary campaign in America today. The organizational confusion, inconsistent statements and other troubles that beset Wesley Clark in the first weeks of his campaign all testified to his lack of political experience. But count me also a believer in the potential payoff in reframing the national political debate if Clark allays these early concerns and captures the Democratic nomination. To many in the party, the chief appeal of the retired general is that he insulates Democrats from charges of being unpatriotic or weak on national security. Yet on domestic issues, Clark's military background may also prove an important, unanticipated asset. During the past several decades, the American military has become a model of successful social reform. Perhaps the best example is racial integration. While many other institutions remain nearly as segregated...

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