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Like most current Republicans, Representative David Brat (VA-7) offers considerable misrepresentation of his background and talents. He labels himself as the only economist in the Congress. This claim might have redeeming value if Brat’s academic writings were on economic subjects, such as a study of the Federal Reserve, the economics of development, or the mechanics of the housing market. But his major academic writings are not in the field of economics.
Even as a legislator Brat has little influence on economic issues. He has sidelined himself by joining the minority Freedom Caucus of Republicans and is not a major player on any of the economic/commerce committees. To ingratiate himself with the Republican leadership he parades the standard Republican talking points. Like most Republicans he was critical of the Affordable Care Act on the grounds that it would increase government debt. Like most Republicans, he is silent about the impact on the debt of the Republican tax bill of 2017. Nor has Brat complained about the fact that the bill makes tax breaks for corporations and the 1% permanent, while middle class tax breaks will expire shortly.
If he is not an influential legislator, what kind of economist is former professor Brat? Not a very ethical one according to recent commentary from the world of economists. It seems Brat plagiarized major parts of a paper he published. Typical of Brat’s research interests, this paper was not about trade, or monetary policy, or other typical subjects of the “dismal science.” No, this bungled paper was a rewrite of the theme of his doctoral dissertation.
His doctoral dissertation copies German philosopher Max Weber’s thesis highlighted in his 1905 book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Weber proposed that Protestantism was one of the major influences associated with the rise in the Western world of market-driven capitalism and the bureaucratic nation-state. He argued that it was the basic tenets of Protestantism which gave capitalism a boost. To Weber Protestant religious values were inherent to the spirit of capitalism. Or, as Brat wrote in his dissertation “the Protestant effect may simply be viewed as the absence of the negative Catholic effects” he described earlier (p. 118).
His dissertation goes on at great length about the failures of Catholic societies. His dissertation is really not about economics at all but drifts into the literature of sociology. To substantiate Weber’s thesis, Brat’s dissertation compares England and Protestant Germany to Catholic France. After discussing comparative education and government systems Brat opines that France is less capitalistic because of its lack of scientific inventions in the 1800s and weak organization of its academic institutions. Not much core economics here, but Brat offers a not so subtle attack on Catholic institutions.
In the current campaign, Brat’s weak background and glaring prejudices are beginning to erode his base. His fundraising is anemic. Vice President Pence recently threw him a life line via a fundraiser in Washington. His staunch support of the Administration raises eyebrows.
His avoidance of town halls and his decidedly weak performance at the only candidates’ debate fades his academic image. His lack of grasp of the issues during this debate did not help. His academic plagiarism makes it difficult for him to separate himself from the ethical problems of the Administration. While Brat likes to characterize himself as an economist, he has not shown much economic sophistication in voting for increased government debt or parroting the Republican promise to cut Social Security and Medicare. Brat’s claim to be an economist is as hollow as his lack of compassion.
Brat’s opponent, Abigail Spanberger, could not be more different. She is a former CIA officer, who is used to collecting information and presenting it in a factual way to policy makers. She has practical operational experience in national security and foreign policy. She has accumulated significant labor and other endorsements including that of veterans in the 7th District and national media attention. She also has the advantage of being born and raised in Virginia. Her practical experience and openness versus his reliance on Republican talking points has moved the needle in the gerrymandered 7th Congressional District from leaning Republican to a toss-up
Editor’s Note: Ockams Razur is a nom-de plume of one of the Culpeper Dems, and this piece originally appeared in the DailyKOS, and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission. So be sure to give them some love over there.
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