- Co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect
- Worked for Ralph Nader in the 1970s
- Served in 1993 as health policy advisor to the Clinton White House
Paul Elliott Starr is co-editor of The American Prospect, a magazine he co-founded in 1990 with Robert Kuttner and Robert Reich. He also directs the Century Institute, a summer project of the left-liberal Century Foundation for college students who seek involvement in politics and governance.
Starr was born in May 1949 in New York City, the son of a pediatrician and a schoolteacher. He earned an undergraduate degree from Columbia University in 1970 and a Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard University in 1978. He became an Assistant Professor at Harvard in 1978 and moved to Princeton University (where he still teaches) in 1983.
Starr worked in 1972-73 for activist Ralph Nader as project director of Nader's Center for Study of Responsive Law. In 1974 this led to the publication of The Discarded Army, Starr's agitprop study critical of U.S. treatment of its Vietnam War veterans.
In 1984 Starr authored The Social Transformation of American Medicine, which won a Pulitzer Prize, the C. Wright Mills Award (named for the pro-Fidel Castro leftwing sociologist), and the Bancroft Prize, which prompted the Chicago Tribune to proclaim Starr "health care's Tom Paine." Conservative reviewers were not persuaded, however. Wrote sociologist Florence A. Ruderman in the journal Commentary: "[This is] a bad book, muddled, pretentious, and with a crudely negative view of medicine and American society.... Throughout … there is a crude economics-and-power reductionism."
In 1993 Starr served briefly as an advisor to President Bill Clinton on health policy, and his aforementioned 1984 book helped inspire First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s proposal for a government takeover of America's healthcare system.
In 1994 Starr developed the Electronic Policy Network, which he continues to manage in conjunction with The American Prospect, Inc., under its new name, Moving Ideas. This "public policy resource" coordinates and integrates The American Prospect and its activities with at least 140 other leftist organizations and websites -- most prominently those that are funded or operated by Bill Moyers, John Moyers, and various "Shadow Party" groups bankrolled by George Soros.
Following the Islamist terrorist attacks of 9/11, The American Prospect initially echoed left-liberal criticisms of Republican President George W. Bush, the war on terror, and the American military incursion into Iraq. But in the wake of Bush's 2004 re-election and evidence of his success in removing tyranny in Afghanistan and Iraq, Starr and two other American Prospect co-editors, Robert Kuttner and Michael Tomasky, co-authored a noteworthy March 1, 2005 article titled “The Liberal Uses of Power: Clarity in Dealing with Terrorism, Yes; and Also in Living Up to Our Highest Ideals.”
This piece said that by “mixing liberalism with realism in foreign policy,” former Democratic presidents such as Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy “were not afraid to use power…. In that tradition, we believe that America can be and should be an assertive force for good in the world. And, as liberals, we also believe that America faces a mortal threat from Islamist terrorists that will require every asset we can bring to bear, including military force.”
Starr and his co-editors continued:
“The first imperative of America's defense and foreign policy is to protect our security, and today Islamist terrorists with global reach pose the greatest immediate threat to our lives and liberties. We ... face a struggle with the jihadists that we have no alternative but to win.... [Islamic fundamentalism's] goals for the world are so profoundly inimical to ours, and its methods so intolerable, that negotiation ... is impossible.... When facing a substantial, immediate, and provable threat, the United States has both the right and the obligation to strike preemptively and, if need be, unilaterally against terrorists or states that support them….”
While a departure from Democrats' general opposition to the war, this article was hedged with qualifiers and criticisms of Republican policies and strategies. It ended with calls for multilateral cooperation in fighting terrorism, global poverty, and environmental problems.
In 2004 Starr published The Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communications.
Between 1992 and 2004, Starr contributed money to the campaigns of a handful of political candidates, all Democrats -- most notably John Kerry (for his presidential run in 2004) and Robert Kerrey (who served as U.S. Senator from Nebraska from 1989-2001).