POLITICS
06/11/2014 01:32 pm ET Updated Jun 13, 2014

David Brat's Economic Analysis

WASHINGTON -- Economist David Brat may have been unprepared Wednesday to outline his position on the minimum wage, but for years he has given Virginia papers analysis about economic conditions.

Brat, the unheard-of college professor who shocked the political world by beating House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) in a Republican primary election on Tuesday, served as a go-to economics guy for the Richmond Times-Dispatch from 2010 through 2013. In July 2010, for instance, the paper reported sad news about economic growth and Brat provided some perfectly conventional analysis.

"The recovery is slowing, and the short-term fixes have almost reached their final stretch," Brat explained. "The consumer is feeling down, and consumption is growing slowly -- way too slow for this stage in the recovery."

The following month, the paper reported on Virginia's economy doing better than the national economy, which some people at the time feared could dip into another recession. Brat provided some basic information on the importance of consumer spending.

"The consumer is 70 percent of the economy," Brat said. "Consumers are still paying down debt, and when you couple that with the national 9.5 percent unemployment rate, and a similar number who are nervous about losing their jobs, then you have a weak demand side."

Brat also shared some less-conventional analysis, saying there ought to be more emphasis on ethics.

"The one source of economic growth is virtue," Brat told the Richmond Times-Dispatch in January 2013. "It is not property rights, not law or resources, but virtue."

In 2010, he cited economic historian Deirdre McCloskey on the connection between virtue and economic growth.

"Deirdre McCloskey's work reveals that virtue may in fact be the one major cause of all causes of economic growth," Brat said, according to the Times-Dispatch. "About 1800, some countries in northwestern Europe began to socially validate and value and even praise the innovator class -- the geeks. We called them morally good."

"Prior to this virtue story, other economists, such as Doug North and Brad DeLong, were showing us how important property rights, the rule of law and even Protestant institutions were to economic growth in northern Europe," Brat continued. "The latest in economic research shows that ethical ideas may matter just as much as traditional economic variables in generating long-run economic growth."

McCloskey, an accomplished economist and author who describes herself as a "motherly libertarian," recently told PBS she'd rather the U.S. give poor people a minimum income than a minimum wage.

"It’s treating people like adults instead of like 14-year-olds, whose consumption needs to be monitored and intervened in all the time," McCloskey said. "Just give them the money."

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