Matt Bruenig

Matt Bruenig is a blogger at PolicyShop. Follow him on Twitter

Recent Articles

The Racial Wealth Gap

This Jon Jeter piece about racial wealth inequality seemed to be making the rounds a lot over the weekend. Jeter begins thusly: For every dollar in assets owned by whites in the United States, blacks own less than a nickel, a racial divide that is wider than South Africa’s at any point during the apartheid era. The median net worth for black households is $4,955, or about 4.5 percent of whites’ median household wealth, which was $110,729 in 2010, according to Census data. Racial inequality in apartheid South Africa reached its zenith in 1970 when black households’ median net worth represented 6.8 percent of whites’, according to an analysis of government data by Sampie Terreblanche, professor emeritus of economics at Stellenbosch University. As someone who keeps track of such things , I was intrigued by the figures, but could not discern where they came from. The Census does not track wealth like this. The 2010 year suggests Jeter may actually be referring to the Survey of Consumer...

Have Hope: Conservatives Rationalize Leftist Stuff They Like

Last week, I had a co-authored piece in The Atlantic about using a universal basic income to cut the official poverty rate in half. The short of it is— as I pointed out last month here at Policy Shop —providing an annual $2,920 cash grant to every American would cut official poverty in half overnight. Although completely viable as a real-life policy that you could implement successfully, such a plan is generally dismissed as out of the question in our current political climate. While this is more or less true, I have considerable hope of the long-term viability of such a program if we can ever manage to get it going. Even though we are a much more conservative nation than our global counterparts, it is not as if those conservative tendencies and principles are consistently applied. Instead, when a left-wing program gets immensely popular, conservatives drop their opposition to it and dream up conservative-sounding rhetoric to justify it. The best example of this comes to us from...

Why Do Women Do Market Work?

Super-misogynist Gavin McInnes of Vice fame unleashed an odd hyper-masculinist performance on HuffPo Live last week , complaining, among other things, about working women. McInnes apparently thinks feminism is to blame for women becoming unhappy corporate strivers, instead of domesticated homekeepers. In making these remarks, McInnes refers to women striving to be CEOs, which suggests that when he talks about working women, he has in mind upper-class, highly-educated women trying to move up the economic power ranks. In the reality of most women, working in the labor market is not a discretionary activity undertaken voluntarily for self-liberation purposes. Like men, women work because they have to work in order to survive. There is no option. This is most obviously true for single women, but it's also true for husband-wife families. In anticipation of a piece I am preparing with Elizabeth Stoker on this McInnes blow up, I calculated the following numbers. They all come from the Census...

Sorry, John Stuart Mill Was Not a Libertarian

Libertarianism as it exists in the United States is basically a mid-20th century American philosophy, at least in origin. Owing perhaps to a combination of bad introductory classes and an urge for a longer historical pedigree, libertarians often like to pretend that great canonical thinkers prior to that time were also libertarians. But as that is an obvious anachronism, it turns out to be untrue. There are some lesser knowns here and there along the trail who might come close, but basically none of the big old philosophical names can rightly be associated with this mid-20th century libertarianism. Previously, I pointed out John Locke’s anti-libertarian transgressions , in which he observed and prescribed a solution to the intense coercion of labor contracts made between those with very unequal bargaining strength, contracts he analogized to slavery. To suggest Locke was not a mid-20 century American libertarian was so infuriating that some rather amusing, but ultimately incompetent,...

Heroism is a Symptom of Political Dysfunction

Enron billionaire John Arnold took a break on Tuesday from his long-standing project of taking away the pensions of public employees in order to provide $10 million to keep Head Start programs running during the government shutdown . This is perhaps one of the more depressing spectacles so far to come out of the shutdown mess. The early education of poor kids in America now partially swings on the whims of a man with way more money than he deserves to have in the first place. This development reminded me of a Corey Robin post from April of last year . In it, Robin attacks the media gushing that followed Cory Booker rescuing a neighbor from a burning house. His point is that Booker’s rescue — and indeed many of Booker’s antics — are things that normally should be done automatically by a well-functioning and well-funded set of government services. That Booker even has the opportunity to do something like rescue someone from a burning building is a sign of institutional failure in fire...

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