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

How Low Can You Go?

THE UPSIDE OF UNEMPLOYMENT Our last issue described PaineWebber's "happiness index" for bonds, which goes up when unemployment increases. But unemployment, we've now learned, can prolong your life too. Our impeccable source is a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research: "Are Recessions Good for Your Health?" by Christopher Rohm (NBER Working Paper No. 5570). Rohm finds that recessions do indeed promote good health, at least if you're young; in fact, according to an NBER summary, "a one percentage point rise in unemployment lowers the predicted death rate of 20-44 year olds by 1.3 percent." Strangely, however, unemployment seems to have no effect on 45- to 64-year-olds and just a slight—though still positive—effect on those over 65. Here's the breakdown on the good news. With 1 percent more unemployment, deaths from car crashes drop by 2.4 percent, from homicides by 1.5 percent, from liver ailments by 0.8 percent, and from heart disease and cancer by 0.2 to 0.5 percent...

How Low Can You Go?

HAPPINESS IS . . . According to The Economist , PaineWebber has created an index of "happiness" for bonds that goes up when unemployment rises. If others would only follow this example and strike a blow against hypocrisy, we could have a series of more accurate social indicators: an index of happiness for hospitals that jumps when epidemics hit; one for journalists that goes up when scandals break out; another for lawyers and accountants that climbs whenever a company goes bankrupt. Ninety years ago, Ambrose Bierce defined happiness as "an agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another." Nothing has changed, except the Federal Reserve has turned Bierce's observation into national policy. If you get fired these days, you can at least take comfort in this consoling thought: You did your part to keep interest rates down, and to make bonds happy. THROUGH A GLASSMAN, DARKLY "If Bob Dole were a stock, I would be buying the hell out of it," the Washington Post columnist...

America's Parliamentary Election

The 2000 presidential election, we've all heard, is "front loaded" because early primaries are likely to decide the nominations, and candidates consequently have had to accumulate money and support long in advance. But this past year, the race became front loaded in another way- many people were already bored when it had scarcely begun. Very early in the process, the conventional wisdom settled on who the nominees and even the winner would be. And with the economy growing smartly and no single issue galvanizing public opinion, the prospect that both major parties would nominate bland centrists led many people to conclude that however the political battle turned out, it wouldn't make much difference. The 2000 election, however, could be more important- and even more entertaining- than these early impressions suggested. The economic revival of the 1990s and shift from deficit to surplus in the federal budget open a new era and invite new possibilities. But just as habits of mind in...

Of Our Time: The Clinton Presidency, Take Three

B ill Clinton's first term effectively lasted two years, until the disastrous midterm elections of 1994. Then came the two-year Clinton-Gingrich government of national disharmony, ending in the President's miraculous revival. Now we have the third Clinton presidency, the second Gingrich Congress, and a gathering storm of investigations that may well dominate national politics for the next two years. Emotionally, this third phase has begun in a deceptively low key. The 1992 campaign generated high voter interest, and the election of a young president raised public expectations of reform, even of another Camelot. Although 1994 turned things upside down, emotions still ran high as Republicans talked revolution and that very talk aroused fear among a large part of the public. For liberals, the ascendancy of conservatives in Congress seemed to mean, as we said on our Spring 1995 cover, "the fight of our lives." But 1996 has been strangely flat. Political temperatures have been running...

How Low Can You Go?

SENSE AND SENSATIONALISM Throughout the scandals of recent years, the public has seemed a lot more sober than the reporters. Take the Dick Morris affair. You have to work yourself into a state of extreme delusionary rectitude to be shocked by a relationship between a political consultant and a prostitute. Indeed, when I first heard that Morris had been caught with a prostitute, I thought he might just have been by himself. What was surprising was not Morris's affair, but that it was treated as such a big story, even in the supposedly high-tone press. Time magazine put Morris on its cover two weeks in a row; I don't recall any world leader getting such back-to-back treatment. Reporters gave their profound opinion that the latest scandal could only damage the President. In fact, it didn't even cause a blip in the polls. Most people hadn't heard of Morris and, quite sensibly, didn't care. This was not Profumo betraying national security. Maureen Dowd, who devoted at least two of her...

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