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

Florida: the Case for Rerunning the Election

November 9, 2000, 11:15 a.m. The next president should not arrive at the White House under the suspicion that his claim to office is illegitimate. Even without knowing the final recount in Florida, we do know that more than enough ballots to change the outcome were thrown out in Palm Beach County because of a confused ballot design and that many black voters claim to have been blocked from voting elsewhere in the state. A court could allow voters in Palm Beach County to register their true intentions by filing an affidavit that they mistakenly marked the ballot for both Gore and Buchanan or for Buchanan alone. But such a procedure would require the court to accept the word of these citizens about their original votes, and it would so clearly throw the election to Gore that Republicans would never accept it. Some voters in Palm Beach County have already filed complaints demanding a rerun of the election in that county. While a far better approach, a new...

Of our Time: Democracy v. Dollar

D emocracy, many people have said, is a matter of faith, but why, dear Lord, must our faith be tested so often? Lately, the role of money in political campaigns has been mocking our civic creed. "Here the people rule," we are taught, and we would like to think so. But if the voters (and nonvoters) seem disbelieving, they may merely be acquainted with the material facts of political life. Congressional candidates in this last election cycle raised $1.3 billion, which is a lot of money to change hands with pure intentions. Fiorello La Guardia, New York's reform mayor of the 1930s and '40s, once said that politics requires "supreme ingratitude." That's just the problem. Among those who run for office, ingratitude may not be common enough. In many respects, the United States is positively fastidious about the influence of money on public officials. Federal employees cannot legally accept even trivial gifts from the public. They risk prosecution if they allow someone to pay for a meal or...

A Reform That Doesn't

L et's say we decided to build a dam along a river. If we merely agreed to erect a small barrier that the river would run around, flowing easily through new channels and old ones, no one would celebrate our plan as a great achievement. But that is how editorialists have hailed the Senate's passage of the McCain-Feingold bill, despite the scant likelihood that the partial barriers it erects will stem the flow of big money or seriously diminish its influence in politics. As passed by the Senate, McCain-Feingold virtually invites circumvention. The bill bans unlimited soft-money donations to the parties and bars advocacy-group advertising that mentions candidates during the 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election. I don't expect the limits on advocacy-group advertising to survive a trip to the Supreme Court, nor do I think they should (as I wrote in "The Loophole We Can't Close," TAP, January–February 1998). But even if the Court upholds this restriction on...

What You Need to Beat Goliath

In Michael Mann's gripping new movie The Insider, the two central characters uphold the truth through acts of corporate disobedience—the moral equivalent of civil disobedience in an age when the threat to freedom so often comes from corporate rather than state power. Fired as head of research at cigarette-maker Brown & Williamson, Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe) breaks a nondisclosure agreement to tell 60 Minutes about his former employer's deceit and malfeasance. But before the segment is aired, its producer, Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), finds himself up against everyone else at CBS when the company's lawyers advise killing the interview for fear of a lawsuit from Brown & William son. In the movie's dark twist, Bergman turns out to be in the same position as Wigand: Both are insiders who confront a corporate decision to deny the public vital infor mation, and then choose to go public themselves. Repeating an early scene in which Wigand leaves Brown & Williamson, the last...

How Low Can You Go?

Bidding for your Job N ot so long ago, employees of large corporations believed that if they did their jobs well, they could count on working for the company for the rest of their careers. The downsizings and reorganizations of recent years have exploded that premise. Still, some remnants of the old beliefs linger on. Most people assume that if they continue working for a company, they will at least receive the same salary. Now that premise is also giving way. Consider a practice that some companies have lately adopted: bidding for your job. Bidding for jobs is typically part of a corporate restructuring--as it is, for example, at New Jersey's major electric and gas company, PSE&G, which is itself now bidding for commercial customers in what used to be a highly regulated and protected industry. According to PSE&G's corporate planning department, the leaders of each business unit...

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