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, which will be out next year.

Recent Articles

2020 and the Democrats’ Theory of Change

Michael Nigro/Sipa via AP Images On March 15, 2019, thousands of students from New York City—and around the world—walked out of class to protest the lack of action to protect the earth from catastrophic climate change. This is a preview of the Spring issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . A s Democrats prepare for 2020, they face a fundamental quandary. The theories of change offered by their most recent president, Barack Obama, and previous presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, have been shot to hell. I borrow the phrase “theory of change” from an article that Mark Schmitt wrote for the Prospect in December 2007 about the candidates who were vying for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Rather than being about ideology or electability, Schmitt wrote, the nomination fight that year was about differing assumptions about politics and how to use the “levers of power” to get things done. Schmitt suggested that Obama wasn’t so naïve as to believe in “hope”...

Here’s How the Democratic Presidential Nomination Will Go

AP Photo/John Locher S ince the Democratic presidential nomination is wide open and will have more than a dozen serious candidates, it is foolhardy and premature to speculate about how the race will play out. So let’s be foolhardy and premature and do exactly that. In the early polls—to which, of course, we should pay no attention whatsoever—Kamala Harris has broken out of the pack of new candidates and is running third, behind the two old guys with the widest name recognition, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, both of whose support may be soft. That trio does make a certain degree of sense in terms of the party’s make-up. As an African American and child of immigrants (from Jamaica and India), Harris may win particularly strong support from people of color. Sanders’s biggest appeal is to white progressives and others who want to shake up the status quo, while Biden is the candidate of continuity, moderation, and familiarity, though he hasn’t yet said whether he’s running. Leaping ahead,...

This Baby Is Overdue

America, can universal child care finally get your attention?

Ronen Tivony/Sipa via AP Images Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks at a campaign rally in Glendale, California. agenda_2020.jpg W hen 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...

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

AP Photo/Matthew Putney, File Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks during an organizing event at Curate event space in Des Moines, Iowa. C andidates 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...

The Pleasant Illusions of the Medicare-for-All Debate

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik Senator Bernie Sanders, accompanied by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill to unveil their Medicare for All legislation. S ince 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...

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