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

An Emerging Democratic Majority

The conventional wisdom is that the Democrats are now merely the reflecting "moon" of American politics and Republicans the "sun." But demographic and voting data suggest the Democrats could create a new majority without sacrificing progressive concerns.

T he 1994 election devastated the self-confidence of the Democratic Party, and 1996 only partially restored it. After narrowly escaping the "Republican revolution," many Democrats have lowered their expectations and become resigned to the prospect of center-right government. And now President Clinton's budget and tax deal with the Republicans in Congress has left his own party without a clear long-term agenda or any resources for new initiatives. Especially on the party's liberal side, Democrats are thoroughly demoralized, gloomy about the prospects for recovering control of Congress in 1998 and reviving momentum on what at least used to be the party's distinctive progressive concerns. Skepticism about progressive possibilities does not simply reflect the latest voting returns, opinion polls, or signals from the White House. Even sympathetic observers don't see why the underlying trends in American society and politics should return the Democrats, much less liberals, to a majority...

The Perils of High-Mindedness

Even before this campaign, he was a familiar figure in our public life—the high-minded politician, detached from partisan passions, divorced from interest groups, devoted to higher purposes for the good of all, disdainful of image-making, fundraising, and negative campaigns. To varying degrees, Adlai Stevenson, John Anderson, and Paul Tsongas played the part; now it is Bill Bradley's turn, and we will see whether he plays it to the same conclusion—political defeat. High-mindedness is both a style of public self-representation and a way of dealing with the practical aspects of politics. As a style, it seems to appeal toaffluent liberals and independents who also feel uncomfortable with the practices of mass democracy. But the same detachment and aloofness may not go down nearly as well with Americans who are less well off and unashamed to ask, "What are you going to do for me?" They want to know whether a politician can deliver . But...

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...

Rights under the Knife

T he Congress that made the impeachment of President Clinton its first item of business is now approaching its end with little to brag about. During the impeachment, I disagreed with liberals who thought the proceedings were an unmitigated disaster. Anything that distracted this Congress from actually passing legislation seemed to me worth public encouragement. Yet even after the impeachment frenzy was over, the danger of serious congressional accomplishment turned out to be minimal. The Republicans themselves have been too divided to get much done; as the saying goes, the right hand doesn't know what the far right hand is doing. Now, however, there is at least a faint possibility of a positive change in the political dynamics. Recall that as the 1996 election approached, a Republican Congress hoping to preserve itself produced a flurry of legislation that surprisingly included an increase in the minimum wage and the Kassebaum-Kennedy health insurance reforms. As the 2000 election...

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