PUTTING THE MINIMUM WAGE ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK…. In recent years, the debate over the minimum wage has largely been limited to two camps: those who want to keep the rate where it is, and those who want to increase it.

This year, with the Republican Party moving sharply to the far-right, the debate has added a third contingent that wants to see the minimum wage shrink, if not be eliminated altogether.

Republican Senate hopeful Linda McMahon of Connecticut, the wealthy and scandal-plagued wrestling company executive, suggested last week that it’s time to consider lowering the minimum wage. Over the weekend, extremist Senate candidate Joe Miller (R) of Alaska went even further in an interview with ABC News.

We asked him, for example, if there should be a federally mandated minimum wage, something that has existed since Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938.

“That is clearly up to the states,” Miller said. “The state of Alaska has a minimum wage which is higher than the federal level because our state leaders have made that determination. The minimum level again should be the state’s decision.”

So there should not be a federal minimum wage?

“There should not be,” Miller answered.

This is, of course, the same Miller who also believes that federal unemployment benefits, Medicare, and Social Security should all be eliminated. He justifies all of this with a radical “Tenther” worldview that’s popular in fringe circles.

Pundits often apply overly broad labels to various election cycles, in the hopes of capturing some key overarching trend. It’s what’s given us phrases like the “Year of the Woman,” for example.

Can reasonable people agree now that this is the Year of the Nutjob?

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.