Matt O'Brien Profile picture
Writer in New York. Formerly the Washington Post & the Atlantic.
Puneet Kollipara Profile picture 2 added to My Authors
4 Mar
This has always been bitcoin’s fundamental flaw: it’s a good investment because it’s a bad currency, but if it’s a bad currency, why would it be a good investment?
I have a more philosophical objection to bitcoin, though. Most technology creates value by making things more abundant.

Take TV or movies. Those have made performances by the top actors available to everyone, not just those who could afford to see them in person.
This abundance makes everyone better off: the actors who now have a larger market for their talents & audiences who now have access to top performances for v little.

Everyone, that is, except people whose status was tied to being able to see performances that others couldn't.
Read 5 tweets
3 Feb
My God. Do you know how stupid you have to be to believe that daytraders executing a short squeeze against a few hedge funds while the rest of Wall Street makes money is a populist revolt against Wall Street?

Or that deregulating daytrading is a way to get back at Wall Street?
Glenn Greenwald thinks that socialists are sellouts if they don’t try to ally with fascists, because he’s a moron. This incredibly stupid GameStop saga is just another example of that. theintercept.com/2020/06/25/sho…
This, from @lionel_trolling, gets at the key dynamic of the Greenwald left. They’re just anti-Democrats who think their must be something to the far-right because Democrats hate them so much. johnganz.medium.com/gramscians-vs-…
Read 4 tweets
30 Jan
Matt Taibbi is another leftist reinventing right-wing liquidationism. You hate to see it.
Step 1: The Fed raises interest rates and stops doing QE despite inflation being below target and unemployment being above target

Step 2: …

Step 3: Socialist utopia!
Step 2, btw, is millions of people losing their jobs for no reason other than incompetent central banking.
Read 6 tweets
27 Jan
I know what WallStreetBets is doing seems pretty hilarious, but they’re just reinventing pyramid schemes.
Short squeezes can also be a good strategy—it’s made WallStreetBets a lot of money!—but going after short-sellers as a general matter isn’t good. Markets need them. Short sellers were the ones ringing the alarm bell about Enron and the housing bubble.
GameStop, like Hertz back in April, is an especially ironic bubble: everyone knows that it can’t last, but they just want to show that they can make it happen for the lulz (and make some money in the meantime).

Thinking you’re in on the con is the easiest way to get conned.
Read 4 tweets
15 Jan
Our minoritarian government aids and abets Republican extremism ft.com/content/cabfd2…
The way the system is biased towards Republicans—gerrymandering, the Senate, & the Electoral College all overrepresent rural/exurban voters who strongly lean GOP—is what Daniel Ziblatt calls “constitutional welfare.”

It short-circuits the reform process. economist.com/united-states/…
Republicans have lost the popular vote in 7 of the last 8 presidential elections, a feat of futility unmatched in our history.

But instead of inspiring some soul-searching about how the party can win back the suburbs, Republicans have been busy spreading Trump’s Big Lie.
Read 4 tweets
14 Jan
There’s *a lot* to like in Biden’s $1.9 trillion rescue package, but $415 billion more for vaccines, testing, and tracing would have the most ridiculous ROI.

It’s literally impossible to spend too much on this. statnews.com/2021/01/14/bid… Image
The Biden plan not only includes bigger checks—increasing them to $2,000—but also better- targeted checks that include adult dependents
The Biden plan will also have bigger and expanded UI, probably the most important thing right now other than the vaccine, and important boosts to the tax-credit safety net—the Child Tax Credit & EITC—that will hopefully become permanent
Read 4 tweets
7 Jan
I'm 36 years old. The two other times in my lifetime that a Republican administration committed serious crimes—Iran-Contra and torture—nothing happened. We looked forwards, not back, etc.

It's not good enough. How will elites learn there are consequences if there never are any?
Democrats need to impeach Trump again, and they need to impeach him today. Inciting a coup, no matter how pitiful it might have been, is as bright as bright red lines get. If Democrats *don't do anything* in response, then Republicans will try it again.
The President told his supporters to march on the Capitol and "show strength," they broke in, and tried to stop the counting of votes to overturn the results of the election. And Democratic leaders want to do ... nothing? I try not to curse here, but ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?
Read 6 tweets
2 Dec 20
Bitcoiners are taking a victory lap because its price is back to where it was three years ago. This supposedly proves that it's a better store of value than other assets that don't regularly experience extreme volatility.
It's worth pointing out, though, that the original pro-bitcoin arguments people were making years ago—either that it was a superior payment system, or that it would actually replace fiat currencies—haven't and won't come true.
If bitcoin really was going to change the world, it'd be in the middle of exponential growth right now. Instead, the number of transactions it's used for each day hasn't increased in the last three years.
Read 6 tweets
19 Nov 20
If Joe Biden picks Janet Yellen as his Treasury Secretary, she will be the only person to have ever held all three of the most important economic policymaking positions in government: Fed Chair, CEA Chair, and Treasury Secretary.
G. William Miller is the only person right now to have been both Fed Chair & Treasury Secretary. Both Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke were CEA Chair before becoming Fed Chair.

Nobody has done the trifecta, though. At least not yet...
I like to imagine that Janet Yellen and her husband George Akerlof debate which of them has a more impressive CV. First female Fed Chair, and potentially the first female Treasury Secretary too vs the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Just an insane power couple.
Read 6 tweets
13 Nov 20
It's probably not too surprising, but it's still striking how much US & UK politics have mirrored each other the last 40 years: laissez-faire with Reagan & Thatcher, Third Way-ism with Clinton & Blair, right-wing nationalism with Trump & Brexit...
... and left-wing populism as a possible antidote to that right-wing nationalism with Bernie & Corbyn, both of whom were old-school socialists who resisted their parties' moves to the center in the 90s & found their parties coming back to them in 2016
The similarities broke down with the 2020 Democratic primaries, though. Instead of Bernie taking over the Dems like Corbyn did with Labour, Biden and the more moderate wing of the party did—and we were lucky they did
Read 15 tweets
4 Nov 20
Younger Dems tend to be frustrated with the way older Dems, who came of age during Reagan, operate out of a constant defensive crouch, and I get it. I am too. But younger Dems need to learn how to talk about policies the way some of those older Dems—Clinton, Obama, and, Biden—do
Younger Dems want to be more ambitious because the party is consistently strong on the national level. The problem, though, is that that isn't enough. The way the Senate & EC give disproportionate power to small, rural states means Dems have to win in conservative places too.
Older Dems understand how to sell a more active government to more moderate voters, i.e., "a hand up, not a hand out". Younger Dems tend to emphasize universal rights—to healthcare, education, etc.—that the government should guarantee. Totally different political dialects.
Read 9 tweets
1 Nov 20
Trump’s top covid adviser, a Fox News radiologist with no training in epidemiology who has been telling Trump that masks don’t work and to slow down testing, is insulting Fauci’s throwing arm after Fauci criticized him.

Meanwhile, the virus is spreading faster than ever.
Scott Atlas is a good reminder that a think tank named after one of the worst presidents in history—the Hoover Institution—doesn’t exactly have high, or any, standards.
Trump’s quack covid adviser, who he discovered on Fox News, went on the Kremlin’s propaganda channel today to spread his deranged ideas about the pandemic.

I’m not sure if that’s a step up or down from Fox News tbh.
Read 4 tweets
22 Oct 20
The EU’s second wave of coronavirus cases has now, in per capita terms, even passed our own.

The combination of pandemic fatigue & people gathering with friends & family indoors during the cold months is going to be very, very bad. It’s why our third wave is starting too.
The fact that already hard-hit countries like Spain, Italy, and Britain are seeing such big resurgences should put to rest the idea that we’re anywhere close to herd immunity
Belgium has the second-highest covid death toll, in per capita terms, in the world. It also has a massive outbreak right now that dwarfs anything we've seen. Herd immunity will not save us.
Read 4 tweets
10 Sep 20
The bottom line is that Trump knew the coronavirus was airborne back on February 7th, but has mocked or otherwise undermined the idea of wearing masks almost the entire time since.

This has likely cost tens and tens of thousands of lives.
How many lives might have been saved if Trump had mdae masks mandatory back in March?

Well, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia all did that then—they were the first European countries to do so—and their per capita death tolls are 7 to *85* times lower than ours. Image
Slovakia closed its borders, closed its schools and restaurants, and made masks mandatory—with its prime minister making a point of wearing one in public—within 10 days of identifying its first case.

We have 85x more per capita deaths than they do. theatlantic.com/international/… ImageImage
Read 4 tweets
9 Sep 20
“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump said on March 19th.

Mission accomplished, amirite. Image
Read 5 tweets
4 Sep 20
The good news: The economy added 1.4 million jobs in August, which pushed the unemployment rate down to 8.4%.

The bad news: the number of people who permanently lost their jobs increased again, this time by 534,000 (it’s up 2.1 million since February).
This is the recession we’ll face once the pandemic is finally over.

And, after starting to improve a little last month, it’s getting worse again now.
The number of people who have permanently lost a job since February is now higher than the number who did after the tech bubble burst Image
Read 4 tweets
20 Aug 20
Read this whole thread.

College presidents are endangering their students, their staff, their faculty, and the communities around them all so that they can justify charging full tuition before sending everyone home again in a few weeks.
What’s going on with colleges was so predictable that pretty much everyone who’s not a college president predicted it.

Here’s what @JuliaLMarcus & @drjessigold wrote a month ago: theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/… Image
At this point, it’d almost be more newsworthy if a college reopening *wasn’t* a complete disaster
Read 4 tweets
19 Aug 20
China’s economic recovery has, stop me if you’ve heard this before, done a lot more for their rich than their poor.

Making that even worse, though, is that China’s government does remarkably little to help non-rich workers. ft.com/content/e0e294… ImageImageImage
How little does China’s government directly do to help its workers? It’s only given 2 million of them unemployment insurance despite the fact that probably around 60 million people are unemployed. Image
This is a point @M_C_Klein has made well (and you should buy his book Trade Wars Are Class Wars): China really is an example of trickle-down economics.

China’s tax system is extremely regressive, and almost all of the government's subsidies go to the rich/well connected.
Read 4 tweets
17 Aug 20
It’s almost like bringing college kids back to campus is an exceptionally poor idea that we shouldn’t be trying right now Image
This is the inevitable result of any college trying to bring students back to campus this fall.

It won’t work. Don’t even try.
UNC and the rest of the ACC are still trying to play college football this fall. Are football players going to be the only students on campus? The idea that they’re normal student-athletes is already laughable, but this would end any pretense.
Read 5 tweets
3 Aug 20
This entire article is based on false premises, and presents a very misleading picture of what the Fed is actually doing. Complaining that the Fed is doing QE is just right-wing derp masquerading as a left-wing critique. thenation.com/article/econom… Image
There are so many basic factual errors that it should almost be retracted.

It originally said the Fed’s entire $7 trillion balance sheet was how much it had spent bailing out big banks since March...
Then it was changed to imply that the Fed had spent $7T since March on Treasuries & mortgage-backed securities, then it was changed again to just say trillions, because that is what actually happened.

The $7T was the Fed's cumulative balance sheet, not what happened since March. Image
Read 4 tweets
31 Jul 20
As I've said before, we’ve decided that bars and high schools are too dangerous to reopen right now, but colleges—which are just bars mixed with high schools—will be fine to.

It seems like an obvious, guaranteed way to start a third wave.
High school parties in Connecticut have also led to mini-outbreaks.

Trying to reopen colleges right now might be the worst idea there is. nytimes.com/2020/07/31/nyr…
University presidents feel like they have to have students on campus to justify high tuition, so they’re trotting out the dumbest CYA possible for what they know will set off a big new wave of cases.

This is such an obvious mistake. We should be bailing out colleges instead.
Read 5 tweets