Thursday, October 10, 2013

Black Friday on Black Friday

One plan that was floated today calls for a six-week extension on the debt ceiling while the federal government stays closed. I have an uneasy feeling about that idea, because depending on how you line it up with the calendar, that could put the new debt ceiling deadline, along with the potential government default and the accompanying stock market crash, on Thanksgiving. Of course, it wouldn’t really be on Thanksgiving because payments can’t really be due on a national holiday, so the dreaded day would be the following day, Black Friday. Just the suggestion of a financial calamity occurring on a day called Black Friday is enough to make Wall Street gamblers think about hedging their bets. But it is not just a funny double meaning. The threat of a default could cast a pall over the Thanksgiving celebration. Try to say this with a straight face: “Today we are thankful for living in a country that has always met its financial obligations, until now.” Then a stock market crash could preempt the biggest shopping day of the year, leaving retailers in the red. Just imagine a family out shopping on Black Friday, but anxiously asking Siri about the stock market as they go along. They might find themselves spending less and less as the morning wears on, until they finally pack it in and go home to eat a lunch of bread and water as the reality of the new austerity sinks in. Cyber Monday could then be the day when panic selling overruns the stock market computers and broker web sites, causing a stock market crash of a different kind — and wiping out another important day at retail.

I have a better idea. For a short-term debt ceiling extension, put the deadline on Veterans Day. Then the picket signs in the Veterans Day parades might remind lawmakers of the urgency of funding the Veterans Administration along with the rest of the government, so that they actually meet the deadline. Oh, I know, politicians don’t actually care about parades, but it is still a better thought than crashing the global financial system on a day called Black Friday.