2016-04-13 / News

Dave Brat talks economics, tax policy at Clover Hill

By Rich Griset

Congressman Dave Brat speaks to economics students at Clover Hill High School last week. 
Ash Daniel/Chesterfield Observer Congressman Dave Brat speaks to economics students at Clover Hill High School last week. Ash Daniel/Chesterfield Observer Last Thursday, U.S. Rep. Dave Brat visited a classroom at Clover Hill High to discuss economic theory, ethics and the free market.

Brat, the former Randolph-Macon College economics professor who made national headlines two years ago for unseating former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, returned to his teaching roots as he addressed Emmett Hickam’s AP economics class.

The class is currently participating in the Stock Market Game, where students invest a hypothetical $100,000 in the stock market to see who can gain the most over a 14-week period. Brat’s appearance was to ostensibly discuss investing in stocks, but focused instead on Brat’s views on economic theory and the role of government.

Brat began the talk by discussing his childhood in Michigan and the semester he spent at the U.S. Capitol while attending Princeton Theological Seminary. Raised in the Presbyterian church, Brat drew a connection between the Presbyterian backgrounds of free market theorist Adam Smith and James Madison, often referred to as the father of the U.S. Constitution. He then critiqued the modern education system for its lack of moral philosophy and religious teachings.

“We’re in a world where K-12 education doesn’t teach any ethical schools of thought,” Brat said. “You guys have been programmed [that upon hearing God mentioned, to] hide under your desk.”

He discussed the causes of the housing market crash, as well as the national debt, saying legislators have an “intractable political problem” in Washington.

“We have a major problem on our hands,” Brat said. “The Democrats, with good intentions, think you can raise taxes.”

Brat then took questions from students. When asked his views on global warming, Brat stated, “I’m a social scientist; I just follow the data” and described global temperatures as “flat,” though studies show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree that the climate is warming, and that it’s likely due to human activities.

Asked about the proposal to build a wall across the border with Mexico, Brat said he was for the most cost-effective solution that kept out both illegal immigrants and terrorists.

“I’d go to the smartest people in the world and see what’s most economical,” Brat said. “If [building a wall] is the way to keep illegal immigrants and terrorists out, yes.”

Later, when discussing the economy, Brat offered this: “If you have more illegal immigrants coming in, does it increase the economy? Yes. It increases the [gross domestic product], but it’s bad for wages.”

As Brat supports the free market system – where prices for goods and services are set by supply and demand without government intervention – one student asked if there was a difference between Obama’s 2009 stimulus package and the incentives used to bring Stone Brewing Co. to Richmond. Brat said that he doesn’t like it when the government picks winners, but if Virginia hadn’t courted Stone, it would have gone elsewhere.

Another student asked Brat what he would do if it were up to him to increase one tax or increase spending in one area. Brat responded that he would not increase spending and that he would prefer to lower the corporate tax rate in the hopes of bringing back corporations that have moved overseas.

“It was interesting,” said sophomore Kyle Thielsch, 16, of the lecture. “Our ideas are a little different, but I think he did a good job of explaining his side.”

Hickam, the teacher, said he didn’t mind that the talk expanded out from addressing investment in stocks.

“I had a feeling that the conversation was going to be driven more toward economic theory,” Hickam said. “I think he did a great job. The students asked very [interesting] questions, and he was very candid with them.”

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