This weekend’s news that Jack Kemp passed away invited the requisite serious of statements from politicians (as well as the NFL). The younger news junkies may know him solely as a former Vice Presidential candidate, but Kemp was one of the key voices for the economic theory that maintained a strong economy throughout the 1980s and most of the 1990s.
Kemp is rightly identified as a key champion for supply-side economics, but he articulated his support for tax cuts and business-friendly policies in a different way than many. Speaking to the blue-collar rust belt, Kemp’s conservatism was framed not by academic arguments of constitutionality or fairness, but by real-life benefits. He engaged and spoke out on a range of issues – including urban issues that others in his party shied from – but did so without compromising his conservative positions. Kemp bravely and fearlessly articulated how the policies he believed in would help everyone.
Maybe that’s common sense, but current Republicans – who seem to find themselves arguing against dramatic increases in economic spending technical arguments – might want to take a page from the former quarterback’s playbook. The current economic policies are bad not because they’ll increase debt or devalue currency, but because they will make it harder for struggling families to put food on the table. I think that’s how Jack Kemp would say it – and aside from being right, it would be a lot easier to sell that message to the American people.