Felix Salmon

Amex’s aggressive move into prepaid cards

June 15, 2011

The new Amex prepaid card is a huge improvement, from a consumer perspective, over any prepaid alternative. It’s free to buy, there’s no monthly fee, and there’s no fee for making purchases: compare the competition, things like RushCard’s $9.95 per month, or Walmart MoneyCard’s $3 per month, or BanXcard’s $2.95 per month. And that’s just the beginning of the charges you find with such cards — charges which are increasingly resulting in subpoenas and other attacks on opacity.

Dealbook’s Goldman debate

June 15, 2011

It’s the big Dealbook debate! In the red corner, there’s Andrew Ross Sorkin, defending Goldman Sachs from Senator Carl Levin’s accusations of egregious behavior during the financial crisis. Sorkin’s main point: that depending on how you measure it, Goldman might not have been quite as short mortgages as Levin suggests. And now, in the blue corner, we have Jesse Eisinger, saying that it really doesn’t matter how big or small Goldman’s short was: the real problem, as has been clear from the day the SEC filed charges against Goldman over a year ago, is that it lied to its clients.

Casey Mulligan’s weird defense of the mortgage-interest deduction

June 15, 2011

It’s not easy to find an economist who thinks the mortgage interest tax deduction is a good idea, but the NYT has managed it, with this column from Casey Mulligan. Unfortunately, it makes no sense. Here, for instance, is the first paragraph, in full:


June 15, 2011

THR rounds up the Spider-Man reviews. They’re bad. Very bad — THR

The 100 greatest non-fiction books — Guardian

How Businesses Fare with Daily Deals: A Multi-Site Analysis of Groupon, Livingsocial, and Opentable, Promotions — SSRN

Philanthropy isn’t for profit

June 15, 2011

Dalberg is an international consultancy which explains, on its About page, that “we value social impact above profit but recognize that a sustainable business model is essential to our success”. Makes a certain amount of sense: if you want to do a lot of good in the world, it’s helpful not to be having to beg for money all the time. And of course that mission makes it much easier for Dalberg to charge huge sums of money and help its owners on their path to wealth and fortune.

How the UK wants to deal with its biggest banks

June 14, 2011

In the Republican presidential debate last night, there was unanimity on most issues, including the new orthodoxy on the right that bank regulation — like any other regulation, for that matter — is a Bad Thing, and a sign of the government overreaching. It’s important to remember that this is not the way that right-wing parties behave elsewhere in the world. Consider for instance the UK, which seems to be cracking down on banks in a manner which would make even Barney Frank blush:

The new normal is kicking the can

June 14, 2011

Michael McDonough has this wonderful chart:


Clearly the “new normal” meme is on the decline, and equally clearly “kicking the can” is developing a life of its own, having won the battle of minds against the cutesy rhyming phrases (“extend and pretend,” “delay and pray,” “fake it till you make it”).

How Facebook could stay private after all

June 14, 2011

Dan Primack has some huge news today: new legislation being put forward is likely to radically change the calculus which currently forces companies to go public after they have more than 500 shareholders. If the bill being proposed by David Schweikert and Jim Himes becomes law, most VC-backed companies would never run into a shareholder limit: not only would the number be raised from 500 to 1,000, but employees and venture capitalists and other accredited investors wouldn’t count towards that total.


June 14, 2011

Hitchens feels a tap on the shoulder — Ebert

The American propensity to fawn over mediocre British pundits — Tumblr

IMF boots Fischer from race for top job — Reuters

SoCal home prices take steepest dive since 2009 — HW

Rights to Ben Stein’s Dreadful Documentary for Sale — WSJ

University of Alberta dean of medicine Philip Baker, egregious plagiarist — CBC