"Too big to fail" is an unflattering label for a bank. But a Wednesday night segment on "The Daily Show" suggested it could double as a proud motto for wealthy libertines.
As host Jon Stewart questioned a recent spate of business mergers reported in the news, arguing that consolidation can make companies dangerously big, comedian John Hodgman — faking a Wall Street persona — tried to set Stewart straight.
"Mergers are exciting, Jon. They're like fun corporate weddings," said Hodgman, sporting slicked-back hair in the style of Gordon Gekko.
But business combinations "have terrible financial consequences," Stewart countered. As they continued the routine, Stewart feigned having difficulty finding the words to make his point, while Hodgman tried to help him.
"Why would they put themselves in a position whereby acquiring all of these other companies, they're going to get so big …?" Stewart said.
"Almost too big?" Hodgman offered.
"Right, too big that they don't … operate efficiently," Stewart said.
Hodgman helped out some more. "What about the word, 'fail'? Is that the word you're looking for? 'Too big to fail.' That's right. TBTF, Jon. It's the rich man's YOLO."
That stands for "you only live once." The slang website Urban Dictionary defines YOLO as something teenagers or buffoons say to explain foolish or reckless behavior — "carpe diem for stupid people," in the actor Jack Black's words.
Stewart continued incredulously. "So actually you're saying to me … [that] the point for these corporations is to get so big that their failure creates a risk to the overall system that the government can't tolerate," he said.
To which Hodgman responded: "That's exactly right. It has worked in the past."