Monday, May 4, 2009
Jack Kemp, the former football star turned congressman who with an evangelist’s fervor moved the Republican Party to a commitment to tax cuts as the central focus of economic policy, died Saturday evening at his home in Bethesda, Md. He was 73.
The cause was cancer, said his son Jimmy Kemp. Jack Kemp’s Washington consulting and lobbying firm, Kemp Partners, announced in January that he had cancer but did not disclose the type.
Mr. Kemp was secretary of housing and urban development under the first President George Bush and the Republican vice-presidential nominee in 1996. But his greatest legacy may stem from his years as a congressman from Buffalo, especially 1978, when his argument for sharp tax cuts to promote economic growth became party policy, one that has endured to this day.
Mr. Kemp, having embraced a supply-side economic theory, told the House that year that the nation 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.”
I really don't have much to add to this, other than to say that Jack Kemp was one of the good guys--a thoughtful conservative that put ethics and economics above religious sanctimony and hyper-partisanship. We could use a lot more like him.