Bailout? Let’s Talk About Sex Instead

It used to be that every time one of my children started a conversation with the words, “Hey mom, can I talk to you about something,” I braced myself for a question about sex.

Now I hold onto my hat for a question about something far more difficult to answer: the economy.

A week ago while driving my 10-year-old to a party, Amy delicately broached this subject in the way one might ask where babies come from.

Sensing this was sensitive territory, she cleared her throat and said, “Mom, the kids at school keep mentioning something about Wall Street and some sort of crisis. Also, I heard on the news that we’re all going to be depressed about it. It’s making me worry that something bad is going to happen,” she said.

You might think there’s a huge difference between telling my daughter what’s going on in the financial markets and just filling up the minivan with the sound of my voice babbling, but it turns out there isn’t.

Let’s just say it would have been easier for both of us had I just answered with an explanation of where babies come from.

What I discovered while trying to simplify the nation’s financial crisis in terms a sixth-grader can understand is this: No matter how you put it, the situation makes no sense.

Here’s what I mean: “Well, honey, banks loaned people lots of money for homes they couldn’t really afford, knowing that there was a good chance those folks might be unable to pay the loans back.”

“But mom,” she answered, “why would anyone do that? If I ever loan money to someone at school, I only give it to them if I’m pretty sure they’ll give it back to me the next day.”

I tried this: “Now, the government is trying to figure out how to fix the problem so that the folks who made the bad financial decisions won’t have to go out of business.”

“Huh? That’s weird because you always say when we make bad decisions we have to suffer the consequences, and sometimes our bad decisions will cause other people to suffer, too. That’s one reason why we’re not supposed to do stupid stuff.” Right.

Obviously, I wasn’t doing a very effective job because I wasn’t even able to get a 10-year-old to understand the root causes of a financial crisis that “might make everyone depressed.” Moreover, when I tried to explain how and why the federal government must step in to fix the problem, I made even less sense.

I’m willing to concede the problem is me. I’m sure I’m missing something because I can’t seem to portray the current state of the economy in terms that make it clear we should implement a multibillion-dollar bailout for corporations whose leaders made more money by quitting their jobs than most of us will ever make by actually working our whole lives.

Here’s an explanation I didn’t try: “Well, sweetie, the plan now is to borrow more money than we could realistically print in a year and help out the folks whose greed caused them to make a lot of really bad decisions. But not to worry, because you and all the other children you know will one day figure out how to pay all that money back, while also working overtime to keep the checks flowing to your old mom and dad through a fine program called Social Security.”

That explanation would have prompted my daughter to ask, “What’s Social Security?”

And heaven knows, I’d much rather talk about sex.

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  • Cooky642

    Sex is certainly less complicated!

    Don’t feel bad: nobody “understands” the financial crisis…..which is why nobody knows what to do about it! That’s why they keep throwing money–OUR money!–at it, hoping that something will “stick”. Even a 10-yr-old knows how dumb THAT is!

  • http://www.myspace.com/crisdee CrisDee

    Every time I think about this economic crisis, I can’t help but wonder if we’d be in this predicament if the 50+ million people killed by abortion over the last 35 years were around to contribute to the economy – to say nothing of the countless millions more who weren’t even allowed to exist in the first place by use of contraception! If families had the number of children that God intended them to have, greed – on the small scale of the “stuff” we fill our home with, and on the larger corporate scale – wouldn’t be at the society-killing epic proportion it is today.

  • SharG

    I know it’s more than a 10 year old needs to hear, but it’s not just greed that made this happen. We need to remember, so it doesn’t happen again, that government policy FORCED banks to make these loans. If the banks did not make a certain amount of these bad loans, they could be and were prosecuted. It’s not just greed – it’s also a question about how to help the poor… and how to buy votes with government money.

    I think the most important lesson a child needs to at least begin learning here is that no matter how hard the banks push debt on you, it is up to you to look at your finances and decide what you truly can afford. Then no matter how depressed everyone else is getting, they will be able to sleep at night. I’m not blaming the poor for making bad financial decisions – even middle and upper class America is going to “suffer” (at an American level) now that credit is drying up and we can’t just keep buying toy upon toy upon toy. This Christmas shopping seaons is going to be interesting. I hope the financial crunch helps bring the simplicity that will turn us back to the true meaning of Christmas.

  • Parrish

    Yes, sadly you can’t explain the crisis in terms that don’t paint Big Brother and the banks in a bad light; something which is decidedly true, but probably not the best worldview for a sixth-grader. Interestingly enough, an article in the Wall Street Journal the other day showed that the crisis was having adverse psychological effects on kids all across the nation: making Christmas lists shorter, saving food, “preparing for the end times” in adorable, if sad, kidly fashion. I don’t know why sixth graders feel the need to dissect this; adults with economics degrees can’t understand it…

  • trailblazer

    Concerning, “,,,adults with economics degrees can’t understand it (or economic condition)…” They can’t understand it because they are are unable or unwilling to consider all the forces at work including the spiritual ones. This is not mostly about economics but about our spiritual condition of which the economy is only a reflection.

    Michael

  • DWC

    In many ways I can’t help but wonder if a dose of “tough love” isn’t a better answer. Let the consequences happen …. foreclosures, bank closings, credit tightening, etc. Painful I’m sure – but we would recover, and do so without sacrificing are core values. Programs exist to help many of these folks now. Then on the rebound, systems and policies would be in place to deter this from happening again. But now, we seem to be moving into “entitlements on steriods”. I just don’t know.

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