Dave Brat is the guy who beat Eric Cantor yesterday in the Virginia District 7 House primary election. Afterwards, he was talking to Chuck Todd who asked him about a raise in the minimum wage. Brat then proceeded to waffle and do the usual libertarian move of obfuscating. Todd asked, “Where are you on the minimum wage? Do you believe in it, and would you raise it?” Brat did very briefly answer the first part of the question, “Minimum wage, no, I’m a free market guy.” But then he started talking about how Obamacare is destroying the economy. Of course, he totally distorted the law saying, “[T]hrow Obamacare on top of that, the work hours is 30 hours a week. You can only hire 50 people.” This is all right-wing talking point: companies are laying off people and cutting back their hours so they aren’t covered by Obamacare. As Alan Barber at the always trustworthy Center for Economic and Policy Research has noted, Everything You’ve Heard About Obamacare Being a Job-Killer Is Wrong.
But then it got worse. Brat went on to claim that the minimum wage could only be raised if productivity went up:
But Brat, the chair of an economics department, must know that the American economy (we can leave aside sub-Saharan Africa for now, given that it is just word salad from Brat) was doing quite well in 1968. If the minimum wage that we had then had gone up at the rate of productivity growth, it would have been $16.54 in 2012. That’s 225% of the $7.25 rate that it actual was and still is. So in as much as Brat is making any sense at all, he is making an argument in favor of a higher minimum wage.
I’m sure, however, that Brat was telling the truth when he first blurted out that he was for no minimum wage at all. He fancies himself a libertarian. But that’s not an opinion that even very many in the Republican base believe. So he will have to massage that position. That’s why he also said, “I don’t have a well-crafted response on that one.” Because despite the fact that he claims to be authentic, he is not inclined to say what he really thinks. Just another politician. Fine. Who cares?
I think Democrat Jack Trammell, who will face Brat in the general election, ought to care very much. Since Brat considers himself a libertarian and he’s an academic, I’m sure he’s written on the issue of the minimum wage many times. It is one of the favorite issues for libertarians. There’s a reason for that: it is an issue of freedom. If you are so inclined, you can see it as simply the government stopping people from entering into voluntary contracts. Now I can dismantle that argument, but that is the theory. If I were working for Trammell, I’d be reading everything that Brat ever wrote so that the campaign could point out what a hypocrite Brat is.
And it isn’t just the minimum wage. The issue that seems to have won Brat the election was his anti-immigrant stance. Again: this is not what libertarians believe. Libertarians believe in open borders. I’m sure a little reading of Brat will find that he’s written some things that are exactly contrary to what he’s been saying recently. And I’ll bet this is just the tip of the ice berg. Libertarians fancy themselves very philosophically consistent and that often leads them to very unpopular places—especially when it comes to Republican voters.
I still think it is unlikely that Jack Trammell can beat Brat. District 7 is supposedly almost 60% Republican. But Trammell can certainly trammel (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!) Brat’s ideological freedom during this campaign. He can make him squirm. And if things go right, District 7 could go Democratic in 2015.
Jack Trammell 2014!
Here is Jack Trammell’s entire campaign website:
I do hope the Democratic Party provides him some money for this race. It has real promise. I may even pony up ten bucks myself—which is about the limit of my resources.