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 (Yale University Press, May 2019).

Recent Articles

This Baby Is Overdue

America, can universal child care finally get your attention?

agenda_2020.jpg When Senator Elizabeth Warren issued a bold plan for universal child care earlier this week, the question some people asked was the usual one: How will she pay for it? Warren has a good answer to that question, which I’ll come to. But there’s a second question that is actually more difficult: How will child care get the necessary public and media attention to make it a top priority? In 2016, Hillary Clinton issued a proposal for universal access to child care that was similar to Warren’s, though not as extensive. Clinton called for federal subsidies to cap child care costs at 10 percent of family income, whereas Warren proposes to cap those costs at 7 percent. Like Warren today, Clinton wanted to build on existing locally run programs such as Head Start to make child care affordable for all families. And like Warren, Clinton also framed the program as serving the purposes of both economic growth and family well-being, as Katie Hamm and Sarah Jane...

Democrats Have Broken the Taboo about Raising Taxes, and That’s a Good Thing

Candidates generally avoid talking about new taxes without tying them closely to new programs, and even then they mostly emphasize how limited the taxes will be. But this year three of the Democratic Party’s leading progressives have called for substantial new taxes on the rich. Senator Elizabeth Warren has put a new wealth tax at the center of her presidential campaign, Senator Bernie Sanders has advocated an increase in the estate tax, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has proposed nearly doubling the top income tax rate to 70 percent. Those proposals have not only broken a taboo but shown that higher taxes on the rich are popular. A Politico /Morning Consult poll found 76 percent of registered voters generally in support of raising taxes on the rich and 61 percent specifically in support of Warren’s wealth tax. The numbers on Ocasio-Cortes’s proposal weren’t as strong but still positive—45 percent for, 32 percent against. Other surveys, even...

The Pleasant Illusions of the Medicare-for-All Debate

Since campaigns for public, tax-financed health insurance began just over a century ago, they have followed a pattern. During the early phase, the advocates of transformative change are convinced that they have a winning cause, only to find out as the battle develops that they have less support and face more intense opposition than they expected. Crushing defeat was the fate of the health insurance campaigns during the Progressive era and again under Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman. It was only when reformers retreated to a more limited program for seniors that Medicare passed in 1965, with Medicaid added almost as an afterthought. The cycle was repeated in the late 20th century. Campaigns for national health insurance in the late 1960s and early 1970s and under Bill Clinton in the 1990s began amid a widespread conviction that Congress would pass a national program. But it was only when reformers retreated to a more limited measure under Barack Obama that the Affordable Care...

5 Reasons Why MAGA Conservatism Has Never Made Any Sense

MAGA hats have become a symbol of support not just for Donald Trump but for a return to a lost world of white privilege. In the slogan “Make America Great Again,” the operative word is “again.” The slogan points vaguely to a time in the past when things were “great,” when white men were free to push black people, women, and immigrants around. But, for the sake of argument, let’s admit the possibility of a more generous interpretation. In the wake of the Great Depression, many Americans during the mid-20th century—white Americans chiefly—experienced greater social mobility and economic security than at any time since. In the generous interpretation, “Make America Great Again” could mean let’s rebuild an America with that high level of opportunity and security. On its face, it could even mean let’s create those conditions for all Americans today. But that generous view runs into a problem. The kinds of...

Race and Class Are Old Bases of Political Divisions. Gender is Different.

The other day Gallup released some striking survey data on migration. No, it wasn’t about how many people want to come to America. It was about the rising proportion of Americans who say they want to leave the country, up to 16 percent under Donald Trump from 10-11 percent under his two predecessors. One finding jumped out: 40 percent of women under 30, twice the proportion of men their age, say they’d leave America if they could. I’m not expecting a mass exodus of young women, but the Gallup report was one more sign of the depth of their alienation from America in the age of Trump. This didn’t happen overnight; women’s anger about both politics and everyday culture in America has been building for a while. Until the past few years, however, it didn’t seem as though national politics would be fought out on the battleground of sex. In the debate on the left about the social basis of American politics, the chief focus has long been on the relative...

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