Former Rep. Jack Kemp has died. The former Buffalo Bills quarterback, advocate of “supply-side” economics, and Dole running mate, Kemp was suffering from cancer.
Kemp helped energize the Republican Party in the late 1970s, drawing Ronald Reagan’s attention with the former’s proposal to cut tax rates across-the-board to create incentives for growth. The idea became the basis for Reagan’s original tax cut program. I met Kemp as a young Reagan staffer at the time and found him to be genuinely interested in ideas and down-to-earth as a person. I once called his congressional office off-hours in the hopes of locating a staffer and he answered the phone.
He called himself a “bleeding heart conservative” and was genuinely concerned about helping people seemingly locked in poverty, advocating low/no-tax and -regulation “Enterprise Zones” as one response. He co-founded the group Empower America.
Kemp served Bush I as HUD secretary and Bob Dole’s vice presidential running mate in 1996. His one run for president, in 1988, fared poorly. Although he dropped out of electoral politics after his 1996 loss, he remained a staple on the speaking circuit and churned out articles for the same newspaper syndicate for which I wrote.
I had plenty of substantive disagreements with him, including his lack of interest in cutting spending and controlling the growth of government. But he was a rarity in Washington–someone who had achieved significant success before entering politics, really cared about those with the least opportunities, was seriously interested in ideas. and genuinely hoped to use politics to make the world a better place. He might not have succeeded in achieving the latter goal, but he personally made the world a better place. Rest in peace, Jack.
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