Robert B. Reich, a co-founder of The American Prospect, is a Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. His website can be found here and his blog can be found here.
Education tops the list of Americans' concerns. But there's no agreement on
what to do about it. The biggest emerging battle is between people who
advocate school choice and those who want more money for schools. George
W. Bush wants to give vouchers to poor kids in failing schools so they, and
their parents, can shop for a better education.
The latest rage in education on both sides of the Atlantic is standardized tests. Tests have been around for a long time, of course, but have never been employed to the extent they are now. Young people are now being tested and then retested a year or two later, and then retested again and again. Our schools are morphing into test-taking factories. Politicians like tests because they don t cost much money and they reassure the public that children are at least learning something.
Almost everyone agrees that the economy needs a kick. Anxieties about terrorism, job losses and record household debt are causing consumers to pull in their belts. Businesses have all but stopped spending.
So why is the federal government's much-heralded "stimulus plan" getting nowhere? Blame politics. Senate Democrats and House Republicans are locked in a game of chicken. Both sides are eyeing the midterm elections next November. A small shift in voter allegiance could swing the balance of power in either chamber. Both sides want to tell their constituents that they've gone to bat for them.
The economic fallout from terrorism is hitting some Americans much harder than others, and we need to respond. Last year, when the slowdown began, layoffs and pay cuts hit hardest at manufacturing workers, white-collar managers and professionals. But since the terrorist attacks, consumers have cut their spending, and now a different group is experiencing the heaviest job losses: the mostly low-paid workers in America's vast personal-service sector.