Richard Rothstein is a Prospect contributing editor, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, and senior fellow at the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at U.C. Berkeley School of Law.
On December 11, 2000, in a decision now headed to the Supreme Court, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the voucher program in Cleveland, Ohio, violates the separation of church and state. The program provides tuition vouchers of $2,500 for low-income children to attend private schools. Over fourth-fifths of the students who benefit attend religious schools, and most of these are Catholic. In a bitter dissent, Judge James L. Ryan said the majority decision "sentenc[es] nearly 4,000 poverty-level, mostly minority, children in Cleveland to return to the indisputably failed Cleveland public schools."
My liberal friends are being too harsh on Bill Clinton. I am not uncritical of administration policies: I have objected in print to its overemphasis on human capital as an economic cure and to its reluctance to embrace forthrightly the labor movement. I believe its NAFTA side agreements don't go nearly as far as they should. Still, I admire the Clinton administration. I credit its good faith and basic progressivism and fear that the increasingly sour tone of the liberal left will only backfire.
In Clinton's first two years, myopic liberals complained about his compromises and disparaged his accomplishments. Now there will be fewer accomplishments and bigger compromises. Insisting on purity could only make things worse.
Following the midterm election debacle, the conventional liberal wisdom is that Bill Clinton should now follow Harry Truman's strategy: refuse to move to the center in an attempt to find moderate votes for a watered-down agenda and instead confront the Republican majority with populist attacks on a "do-nothing Congress."
No single strategy can reverse a 20-year decline in
average wages and its threat to our postwar pattern of broadly distributed
prosperity. But it's hard to imagine a successful set of policies that doesn't
include a revival of labor unions. With the election of John Sweeney as AFL-CIO
president, and a fresh commitment to organizing, many union supporters (inside
and out of the labor movement) are newly optimistic. However, the obstacles