May 2, 2009


Jack Kemp, Dole’s Running Mate in 1996, Dies at 73 (ADAM CLYMER, 5/03/09, NY Times)

[H]is greatest legacy may stem from his years as a Buffalo congressman, especially 1978, when his argument for sharp tax cuts to promote economic growth became party policy, one that has endured to this day.

The nation, Mr. Kemp told the House that year, having embraced a supply-side economic theory, suffered under a “tax code that rewards consumption, leisure, debt and borrowing, and punishes savings, investment, work and production.”

Ronald Reagan adopted the issue as a central one in his 1980 presidential campaign, and in 1981 he won passage of a 23 percent cut over three years. The legislation was known as Kemp-Roth, named for Mr. Kemp and William V. Roth Jr., the Delaware Republican and his Senate co-sponsor.

Mr. Kemp’s other great cause, in his 18 years in the House and for three decades thereafter, was to get his party to seek more support from blacks and other minorities.

“The party of Lincoln,” he wrote after the 2008 election, “needs to rethink and revisit its historic roots as a party of emancipation, liberation, civil rights and equality of opportunity for all.” [...]

Mr. Kemp first heard about supply-side theory, as advanced by Arthur B. Laffer, a University of Southern California economist, in 1976. Soon he immersed himself in the case for tax cuts, reading deeply from the works of the Laffer camp as well as its critics. When he debated the subject on the House floor, he cited studies on the money supply, the experience of Britain and Sweden, and the impact of past tax cuts in the United States.

He persuaded his House colleagues to bring the idea to a vote in 1977 and three times more, in 1978. Each time they sought to reduce taxes across the board, starting with the 70 percent marginal rate, which was then imposed on the highest incomes. They lost each time — once by only five votes — but they had an election issue.

Mr. Kemp had also convinced Bill Brock, chairman of the Republican National Committee, that the issue was political gold. “He said, in effect, we need to restore the essence of our party, which is growth, which is jobs, which is creativity,” Mr. Brock said in an interview earlier this year. “And the way to do that is to free people of the burden of excessive taxes.”

Mr. Brock said the issue was central to the Republicans’ gaining 15 seats in the House of Representatives and 3 in the Senate in the fall of 1978.

While some allies wanted him to seek the Republican nomination himself in 1980, Mr. Kemp supported Mr. Reagan. In 1979 he organized a seminar in Los Angeles to explain the intricacies of the policy to Mr. Reagan and his campaign advisers. Mr. Reagan, who thought his own taxes as a movie actor had been too high, seized on the idea as one that would appeal to blue-collar voters.

After his election, Mr. Reagan called for a three-year, 27-percent tax reduction, straight out of the Kemp-Roth bill, which had been introduced earlier. The three-year, 23 percent reduction that the president ultimately agreed to was supported by Mr. Kemp. Although its formal name was the Economic Recovery Tax Act, it became known as the Kemp-Roth tax cut.

-OBIT: Jack Kemp, an original pillar in Republican 'big tent,' dies at 73 (Jon Thurber and Ari B. Bloomekatz, May 3, 2009, LA TImes)

"Jack more than any other person made Reagan aware of the potential appeal of supply-side economics, but Reagan probably would have come to that conclusion on his own because that's where the Republicans were headed," said Reagan's biographer Lou Cannon.

Kemp, as much as anybody, helped convince Reagan to embrace supply-side economics, designed to stimulate growth through tax reduction.

Kemp's tax bill was defeated in the House, but a similar measure was approved two years later, offering a 25% cut in taxes. He favored a return to the gold standard and took a hard line against the Soviet Union, supported aid for the Nicaraguan Contras and was a firm friend of Israel.

In many ways Kemp was ahead of his time in Republican circles, calling for the party to embrace all races and ethnicities and pushing for inclusion of blacks, Latinos and Jews.

"He was viewed very much as not only the carrier of supply-side economics, going back to the Reagan days, but he was really the guy who always talked about the 'big tent,' " Feulner said Saturday.

Kemp always thought about how to "add and multiply" the party, Feulner said.

Viewing himself as a neo-conservative, Kemp forged a new conservative activism among younger Republicans, breaking with the moderate old guard of the party that included George H.W. Bush, Dole and House stalwarts like Robert Michel. In the process, he became an ideological model for a generation of leaders that included future House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi.

"Jack rose to be a major national political figure and somebody considered as a presidential candidate on the strength of his personality, his drive and ideas," Norman J. Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Times some years ago. "That's not something that happens very often for House members."

But despite his looks and charisma, he did poorly on the national stage. His economic concepts, which he sold on the stump with the zeal of a fundamentalist preacher, seemed wonkish and failed to convert voters. His campaign style was seen as undisciplined and impatient. Political analysts saw him as unwilling to play politics in a manner what would bring victory at the polls.

"If I could remove two-thirds of your knowledge and three-fourths of your vocabulary, I could make you into a decent candidate," veteran Republican consultant Edward J. Rollins recalled telling him.

He was Theo, not Neo.
-PROFILE: Paving the Way for Reagan: Jack Kemp's enduring influence. (Kenneth Tomlinson, 02/16/2009, Weekly Standard)
There are some people you cannot imagine ill. One such person is Jack Kemp, the onetime Buffalo Bills quarterback, longtime House Republican leader and godfather to the supply-side -economics movement. Whatever he was doing, Jack always has been in perpetual motion.

But the shock of his serious battle with cancer has prompted many of us to reflect on one indisputable fact. Without Jack Kemp, there would have been no Reagan Revolution. He was John the Baptist to "the Oldest and Wisest"--and in doing so became one of the most influential political figures of our time.

Had it not been for the radical 30 percent across-the-board tax rate cut that Kemp sold to candidate Reagan, America never would have realized the prosperity of the Reagan era and beyond. (Looking back, can you imagine a society that had accepted the legitimacy of 70 percent tax rates on our best producers?) By the sheer force of his evangelistic personality, he brought supply-side economic theories to influential journalists and politicians--and also to Ronald Reagan--legitimizing the concept that tax rate cuts were essential to unleash the creativity and innovation of the American dream.

Considering the crushing egos of the brilliant band of volatile individuals who constituted the supply-side movement, it is hard to imagine how anyone kept them in the same room long enough to influence mainstream political thought. But Kemp was, after all, the old quarterback who knew the importance of molding all sorts of individuals into a team.

-TRIBUTE: An appreciation of Jack Kemp (Gregg Easterbrook, 5/03/09, ESPN)
"So you favor socialism!" Jack Kemp had his arm around my shoulder and was pressing tight. I'd just told him, last October, that I would vote for Barack Obama. "You favor using the tax code to redistribute wealth! You want a president who will seize income and penalize success! So that's what you favor!" His health failing, Kemp still possessed boundless enthusiasm for talking politics and public policy. I couldn't get him off the topic even by trying to change the subject to football.

Jack Kemp, star quarterback and innovative public-policy thinker, died Saturday. The Associated Press AFL MVP of 1965 as quarterback of the Buffalo Bills, Kemp went on to serve 18 years in the House of Representatives, became Secretary of Housing and Urban Development during the presidency of George H.W. Bush, then ran as the Republican Party's vice presidential candidate in 1996. Kemp was a leading factor in the rise of Ronald Reagan conservatism in American life, and remained active in public-policy debates until the final months before his death. His were two singular achievements: First, to accomplish more after leaving athletics than he had before; second, to join that small fraternity of sports stars who have gone on to significant careers in serious pursuits.

Byron "Whizzer" White, who twice led the NFL in rushing, became a Supreme Court justice; Bill Bradley, who played for the New York Knicks, became a three-term United States Senator and 2000 candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination; Alan Page, who played for the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears, made the Pro Football Hall of Fame, went to law school and is now a justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court; Jim Bunning, a Hall of Fame pitcher with the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies, is in his second term as a U.S. Senator from Kentucky; Ken Dryden of Canada and Roger Bannister of the United Kingdom are the other sports celebrities whose lasting achievements came after they tied their sneakers for the final time. Kemp's after-the-grandstands achievements rank with anyone in sports lore. Most star athletes spend their second act signing autographs and waving to fans; the real work of Kemp's life began when he put the football down.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 2, 2009 10:04 PM
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