Sunday, May 3, 2009

Jack Kemp, 1935-2009

Jack Kemp, the former Representative from Buffalo who championed supply-side economics and tax credits as a way of boosting economic growth, died Saturday. I am not a fan of Kemp's legacy of lower taxes and constant pressure for more tax cuts. All of us want lower taxes, and cutting taxes may have made sense back in the late 70's, early 80's. But the side effect - or maybe direct effect - of those tax cuts was to make it very difficult to balance the budget, and very easy to be dismissive of budget deficits. We are still paying the price of that idea, and we will be paying it for decades.

But I always liked Jack Kemp as a person. Besides seeming to be a genuinely nice guy, he was a "bleeding heart conservative," a man who campaigned among African-Americans when he was the GOP VP candidate in 1996. He really believed that the Republican party could successfully reach out to African-Americans. This compassion came from - of all places - football, and his experience as a quarterback.

He wanted the VP nomination in 1988, but George H. W. Bush chose Quayle. I don't know why Bush passed on Kemp, but I can speculate - Kemp probably would have overshadowed Bush, and he was a rival for the nomination in '88. Democrats should probably be thankful that Bush didn't choose him, because if Kemp had been Bush's VP, he would have been the frontrunner for the nomination in '96, and Dole most likely would not have been the nominee. So Kemp would have been #1 on the ticket, instead of #2, and he would have given Clinton a stronger race, even with Ross Perot in the race.

I didn't know that Kemp was originally from LA until I read his obit. I also didn't realize that he went to Occidental, same as Obama. Must be something good about that place.

You have to respect a Republican who accepted the job of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and then actually took it seriously. He was one of a kind.

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