Matt Bruenig

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

Recent Articles

A Modest Proposal: The Universal Christmas Bonus

Wikimedia Commons/Square87
L ast year, Paul Ryan passed along this made up story: This reminds me of a story I heard from Eloise Anderson. She serves in the cabinet of my buddy Governor Scott Walker. She once met a young boy from a poor family. And every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. But he told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch—one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids’. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him. Insofar as the point of this story is to push against free lunches in school, it's obviously a rather craven sentiment. The opponents and critics of free school lunch are an odd bunch. They seem to think it's basically alright to send over 90 percent of children to these big welfare programs called public schools, but that feeding them while they are at these welfare schools is over the line. It's not hard to see what's going on: public school is so commonplace and nearly...

The Top 10 Percent of White Families Own Almost Everything

Chart: Demos - Photo: Rui Vieira/PA Wire (Press Association via AP Images)
This article was originally published by Demos. T he Federal Reserve released the 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances on Thursday. The overall wealth distribution picture is grim and getting worse: The top 10 percent of families own 75.3 percent of the nation's wealth. The bottom half of families own 1.1 percent of it. The families squished in between those two groups own 24.6 percent of the national wealth. The present wealth distribution is more unequal than it was in 2010, the last year this survey was conducted. Specifically, the top 10 percent increased their share of the national wealth by 0.8 percentage points between 2010 and 2013. The bottom half and middle 40 percent saw their share of the national wealth fall by 0.1 and 0.7 percentage points respectively. These wealth figures bring to mind a 1955 Red Scare era educational film , which presses at one point: In order to have a proper appreciation of the American economic system, we must know how the national income is divided in...

The Single Mother, Child Poverty Myth

I see it often claimed that the high rate of child poverty in the U.S. is a function of family composition. According to this view, the reason childhood poverty is so high is that there are too many unmarried parents and single mothers, and those kinds of families face higher rates of poverty. The usual upshot of this claim is that we can't really do much about high rates of childhood poverty, at least insofar as we can't force people to marry and cohabitate and such. One big problem with this claim is that family composition in the U.S. is not that much different from family composition in the famed low-poverty social democracies of Northern Europe, but they don't have anywhere near the rates of child poverty we have. A number of studies have tested this family composition theory using cross-country income data and found, again and again, that family composition differences account for very little of the child poverty differences between the US and other countries. Testing this...

America's Class System Across The Life Cycle

I am not usually one for a long charticle, but occasionally it's worthwhile to step back and summarize what we know. Here, I tackle America's class system, across the life cycle. 1. Poverty Spikes Stress in Children It starts in the womb . It never lets up . 2. Income Inequality Means Enrichment Inequality More money, more activities. 3. Rapid Schooling Divergence Although there is essentially no observed class-based difference in the cognitive abilities of children in their first year of life, that ends quickly . 4. Logical Consequence of Divergence: Drop Outs Little to no enrichment activities, cognitive abilities stunted by poverty-related stress, and years of falling behind does what you would think it does . 5. Further Behind Than Ever Come College Time These figures probably understate the severity of the gap as well because those on the low end who’d score the worst probably never bother to take the SAT anyways. 6. Traditional College Students: Rich Kids The richer your parents...

Why Paul Ryan Is Wrong to Blame Black Culture for Poverty

Watching Paul Ryan try to figure out the poverty question has been a fascinating spectacle. It began with his secret poverty tour, a tour so secretive that it was covered in the major national newspapers. The next event was the release of his big report on the condition of the welfare state, a report so riddled with inaccuracies that even the economists he cites favorably claim he has misrepresented their work . And now today, we are treated to a sneak peak at what all of this political theater has led him to conclude about the causes of poverty : black culture is making people lazy. Of course, he doesn't use "black," opting instead for its friendlier synonym "inner city": We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with. As an initial matter, it is still kind of...

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