September 10, 2008
While channel surfing last night, I ran across CNN's Glenn Beck commenting on the buzz surrounding government bailouts and nationalization. He was half-joking with a guest commentator about the slippery slope we're on, now that the "too-big-to-fail" story seems to be in vogue. After Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, why not Lehman Brothers? Why not Detroit's Big Three? Why not the airline industry? These dudes on CNN had a point: Maybe you can argue that any company's too something to fail.
I realized that this could make a fun party game for gallows-humor aficionados, so I'm going to take a couple of shots. Bear in mind, I'm not commenting on the financial health of any of these companies. But in the spirit of news agencies that already have obits prewritten and ready to roll for famous folks who kick the bucket, why not have some bailout/nationalization excuses ready at hand for every company we can think of, just in case?
- Too loved to fail: Sirius XM (Nasdaq: SIRI ) . Can't turn a profit? Onerous debt burden? Who cares! If something bad happened to the now-combined entity of the former satellite-radio competitors, it would be a huge blow to the morale of the massive base of crazed, hate-mailing stock fans across this great nation of ours.
- Too fashionable to fail: Gap (NYSE: GPS ) . Nothing celebrates the elegant beauty of "socialized losses" like a mass adoption of khakis.
- Too granola to fail: Whole Foods Market (NYSE: WFMI ) . Oops, my bad. The government doesn't seem to want this one to succeed, given its alleged monopolistic death grip on our food supply. Down with hippies!
- Too spirited to fail: Fortune Brands (NYSE: FO ) . Fortune Brands provides Jim Beam and other spirits -- a matter of national security. A numb, drunken, apathetic populace is exactly what we need right now.
- Too green to fail: Heelys (Nasdaq: HLYS ) . Bet you didn't see that one coming. Why spend money we need for bailouts on alternative-energy R&D, when wheeled shoes are the simple answer to so many of our problems, including obesity rates?
- Too medicinal to fail: Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY ) . One word: Prozac.
- Too perky to fail: Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) . It has an exclamation point, and that's a heck of a lot more cheerful than a question mark. We don't like question marks! Those denote actual questions! Plus, we're fond of saving yahoos these days.
Our current situation is no laughing matter. The "moral hazard" issue is an increasingly urgent one, and I'm not exactly thrilled with the "nationalization" trend. But sometimes you've got to laugh so you won't cry. Feel free to add your own ideas of companies that are too "something" to fail in the comments box below.