Gary Dorrien teaches social ethics at Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University. His latest book is Social Democracy in the Making: Political and Religious Roots of European Socialism.
The protesters sleeping in the cold do not claim that 99 percent of Americans agree with them. Their point is that the top 1 percent plays by different rules.
Longtime advocates of single-payer insurance like me are thrilled, anxious and deflated simultaneously by the state of the debate on health-care reform. The debate that we wanted has finally come, and it is coming with a legislative rush, but the plan that we wanted is being excluded from consideration. Should we hold out for the real thing, or get behind the best politically possible thing? I am for doing both: Standing up for single-payer without holding out for it exclusively; supporting a public option without denying its limitations; and hoping that a good public plan will lead eventually to real national health insurance.
The current meltdown is just a bigger version of the dot-com bust of the 1990s, with the usual lessons about financial bubbles. But this crisis is harder to swallow, because it starts with people who were just trying to buy a house, who usually had no understanding of predatory lending or derivatives schemes. It was a mystery how the banks did it, but you trusted that they knew what they were doing. Your bank resold the mortgage to an aggregator who bunched it up with thousands of other subprime mortgages, chopped the package into small pieces, and sold them as corporate bonds to parties looking for extra yield. Your mortgage payments paid for the interest on the bonds.