Subprime mortgages (and all mortgages, really) are a fraction of the current problem. The bailout would have been enough to buy out every subprime mortgage in foreclosure across the country. In fact, it was enough to do that several times over. So why not do that?
The reason is that the purpose of the bailout (at least as Treasury Secretary Paulson sees it) isn't to stop mortgage foreclosures, but to save the banks. And the banks have some self-inflicted problems that make those mortgages an afterthought.
For example, the wonderful credit default swap. In essence, credit default swaps are (or were) nothing but insurance policies for loans. And yet in 2007 the total number of credit default swaps traded far exceeded the value of all loans. In fact, it may have touched $70 trillion dollars, which puts it above the gross domestic product of the entire planet.
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