Jack Kemp will be remembered for two things. The first is for being the driving legislative force for the 1980s tax cut that broke the back of stagflation. The second is for recognizing that conservative principles could address problems such as poverty.
Jack Kemp’s first career was that of a college and then professional football player. Even as Jack Kemp spent his time playing football, his political beliefs were being formed by such people as Barry Goldwater and Ayn Rand. After a thirteen year football career, Jack Kemp was elected to Congress in 1970.
Jack Kemp was an early advocate of tax cuts to stimulate economic growth and of the concept of enterprise zones to alleviate poverty and urban blight. Enterprise zones would be areas in which regulatory and tax burdens would be lifted in order to stimulate economic growth in blighted areas. It was an original, innovative alternative to the standard, government centric solution of bureaucratic programs and federal spending.
The election of President Reagan brought Jack Kemp into prominence as a driving force of the tax cuts that helped to break the back of stagflation, which had stymied economic growth and promoted inflation, that had blighted the country since the late 1960s. The seven years between 1983 and 1990 were an unprecedented period of economic growth.
Jack Kemp was not the first American politician to realize that tax cuts could stimulate economic growth. President Kennedy championed tax cuts for that very purpose in the early 1960s. But Kemp, with the able assistance of President Reagan, helped to formulate the argument that low taxes were the best method to enable economic growth and to alleviate social ills such as poverty.
Jack Kemp ran for President in 1988 and lost to then Vice President George H. W. Bush. The first President Bush made Jack Kemp his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development with a mandate to try out some of his ideas of enterprise zones and encouraging home ownership by the poor. Unfortunately these issues were of low priority in the Bush the Elder administration, though Kemp was able to clean up the Department of HUD after scandals had afflicted it during the Reagan administration.
After his stint as Secretary of HUD, Jack Kemp went into private policy advocacy, forming Empower America to promote his ideas of using the government to empower people rather than expensive programs to alleviate poverty.
Jack Kemp ran for Vice President as Bob Dole’s running mate in 1996. Kemp was also an early proponent of a flat tax. Kemp advised John McCain on fiscal matters during the 2008 campaign.
Jack Kemp always described himself as a “bleeding heart conservative.” While President George W. Bush pushed something called “compassionate conservative”, Jack Kemp was the earlier proponent of the concept. The idea was that there is nothing compassionate about making people dependent with big government programs, but rather true compassion consists of empowering people to help themselves.
Jack Kemp’s ideas are out of favor in the Obama era, which can be seen as a reactionary return to the old style of big government liberalism of Lyndon Johnson and FDR. But those ideas are eternal, because they worked, and will work again in the fullness of time.
And that is why, though Jack Kemp has succumbed to the ravages of cancer, he will never in fact fully die.
Source: Friends, Colleagues Remember Jack Kemp, Fox News, May 3rd, 2009