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Bring on the Brat chat

Photo by Ian Chini. Former Chamber president Jim Charapich, now a financial advisor with Brown Wealth Management, met Congressman Dave Brat for the first time last week. “I’m impressed,” said Charapich after the event. “He’s very lucid.”
It’s been a little over a year since Dave Brat made national and political history soundly defeating longtime incumbent Eric Cantor in Virginia’s 7th District. He rode in on a wave of disgruntlement and angst at the status quo not only in Virginia but the national scene. Many political pundits had Cantor becoming the next Speaker of the House. Well, that didn’t happen. Cantor headed to Wall Street and Brat, as a newbie in Washington, is still learning the ropes. He’s moved from the arena of a college professor to the arena of national politics but he’s doing so with seemingly calm aplomb. And I think that confidence comes from clarity - Brat’s background is economics but it’s also philosophy. His master's is from Princeton Theological Seminary and his doctorate in economics from American University. It’s a combination that you might think wouldn’t work but it does work amazingly well as he has a firm grasp on the numbers game but also the ethos to stand principled.

He was in Culpeper last week at a Chamber sponsored event held at Germanna Community College. It was a good place to gather as Brat sits on committees that focus on budget, education and small business. Good fits for him and for the district. He’s encouraged about he refers to as “the real deal” when it comes to empowering the future workforce. Legislation in process would promote access to business certifications enabling more to enter the workforce sooner in their careers and, optimistically, without so many hurdles.

An advocate of the free market system and for less government regulation, Brat was realistic as he told the group that federal unfunded liabilities exceed $127 trillion and that in 11 years the federal reserve will be exhausted. So, while he applauds new initiatives in transportation, education and healthcare, he was clear that if there weren’t reforms there will be no money to run the government, so zero for the military, zero for education, zero for transportation.

As we grapple with another presidential election in 2016, Brat said that decisions in Washington are not so much based on party affiliation but who holds the purse strings. The power comes from who will profit irrespective of your political persuasion. With high corporate taxes and cheap labor abroad, more and more American companies are taking their business elsewhere. We’re losing out to Ireland for Internet services and India for service reps. Energywise, China is building more coal fired plants and our current EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has become so powerful that the Clean Waters Act (while perhaps laudable in theory) may well do in small farmers and local governments trying to keep abreast of all the regulations covering bodies of water - whether it’s storm water runoff in neighborhoods or ponds on properties.

Voted in by those who hold to the Constitution, Brat admits that Congress has gone soft. The Executive Branch has way more reach than originally intended by the Founding Fathers. Its influence outweighs the checks and balances scale of government that was put in place more than 200 years ago.

The Iran deal. Numbing to Brat who said there were so many side deals made that Congress was totally unaware of. Giving them money to rebuild their nuclear program and allowing them to inspect themselves is baffling to Brat.

One older gentleman in the audience hoped that terminology would change when referring to social security as an entitlement program. “We’ve paid into that for years...it’s our money, not a handout.”

Brat agrees but folks are living lots longer than age 65. The average age now is 83. He said that for every dollar $1 we’ve put in, $3 is coming out in payments. Again, it’s a numbers thing. The population has increased, healthcare has improved and people are living longer.

Sounding bleak?

I interviewed Brat shortly after he took office. I found him to be extremely intelligent, a realist but not a pessimist. He has a sharp wit and a ready smile that exudes optimism. After nearly a year, he seems even more comfortable in his new role. But he is also grounded in fundamentals - economically and ethically. He is intentionally painting a bleak picture because he understands that unless the American people voice their concerns, as they did by electing him, that the present course has a predictable outcome. And, it’s not one, that as older Americans we are ready or prepared to face nor is it one that we would want as a legacy for our children and theirs.

He encourages political involvement and that might be as simple as volunteering at a local school or church group where you are helping to educate the next generation technically and morally.

Asked who he will back as the next president, Brat laughed. With Donald Trump still trumping the polls and the Democrats scrambling to find someone other than Hillary, Brat reiterated his beliefs. I’m a Judeo-Christian, I believe in the free market system and for less government regulation, I’ll vote for someone who believes the same.

Anita Sherman is the editor of the Culpeper Times. You may reach her at anita@culpepertimes.com
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