Explaining American Politics to a Canadian

My son Ross is visiting from Canada, and we were chatting about the U.S. housing bubble as we drove to the golf course up the road.

“What bugs me, Ross, is that the government gave all those billions to the banks instead of using the money to buy up the risky mortgages and rent the houses back to the people living in them,” I grumbled.

“That’s what Lisa says,” Ross responded. Lisa is Ross’s wife and she is very smart.

“Some of the renters could buy back their houses later on when they get on their feet,” I added.

“Yes, rent to own,” Ross agreed.

“But the politicians gave the money to the banks at zero percent interest, and instead of lending the money to the homeowners as the politicians expected, the banks bought Treasury bonds with it,” I continued, oversimplifying to provide a rough idea of the scam. “In effect, they lent the money back to the government and got something like 4 percent interest on it.”

“Isn’t that theft?” Ross asked. “In Canada. the bankers and politicians would be in jail.”

“Apparently, it’s quite legal in America,” I said. “In fact, the bankers were rewarded with multimillion-dollar bonuses.”

“So why didn’t the government give the money to the homeowners instead of the banks in the first place?” Ross wondered.

“That would be Socialism,” I said.

“So?” Ross asked.

I was stuck for an answer.