US Banking: WTF?

SOGrady has some comments on the US Banking system. [here]
I have yet to figure out the US Banking system. I have lived in this country for 6 years, and what banks do here seems so 19th century. In Canada, when you use the nationally accepted electronic debit system (InterAC), the money is gone from your account. Now. Like, Right Now. Not sometime within the next 1-30 days.
When I pay my bills online, the money is taken out…sometime.
We gave up on electronic transfers from the US to Canada, relying instead on the Ground Yak method: when we move money home, we send a real cheque to our Canadian bank.
How hard can it be? How can the banking system in the US be so outdated that it is the laughing stock of third-world nations?
Please…I really want to know.

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