It wasn’t only the Republican Party and the Conservative Movement that lost an elder statesmen with the passing of former Congressman Jack Kemp. Known for the historic tax cuts that bore his name, the former quarterback for the Buffalo Bills also consistently argued that inflating the money supply endangered the nation.
I personally watched him do this 24 years ago. In those days, he would deliver a speech the way that he delivered touchdowns.
“When the coat comes off, look out,” a co-worker warned me before then-Rep. Kemp spoke at the Education and Research Institute’s summer symposium. That day, the coat was off and the dollar bill in his hands as he held it aloft explaining to the room full of college students exactly how worthless inflation of the currency made the money in their pockets.
America desperately needs such lessons now. The Federal Reserve Bank has increased the money supply by about 30 percent in just the past six months.
Jack Kemp deserves to be remembered as much more than a footnote in history. Arguably, the tea parties of 2009 also form part of his legacy.
“If you want to create less of something, tax it,” Kemp used to say. “If you want to create more of something subsidize it.”
As it happens, in the United States, the 1970s were marked by a loss of jobs and the businesses that create them. Conversely, the 1980s saw record private sector job growth and business creation in America as a result of the tax cuts passed by Kemp’s friend and mentor, Ronald Reagan.
As for the other half of that aforementioned aphorism, “By 2008, there were 1,804 different subsidy programs in the federal budget,” Chris Edwards reported in the Cato Institute’s April 2009 Tax & Budget Bulletin. “Hundreds of programs were added this decade-ranging from a $62 billion prescription drug plan to a $1 million anti-drug education grant-and the recent stimulus bill added even more.”
“We are in the midst of the largest federal gold rush since the 1960s.” Edwards serves as director of Tax Policy Studies at Cato.
If you read on, the culpability of the Bushes, pere and fils, is evident in this hemorrhaging of red ink. “The number of programs grew in the late 1970s, but was cut back in the early 1980s under President Ronald Reagan,” Edwards writes. “The number of subsidies started expanding again in the late 1980s, but leveled out in the late 1990s as Congress and President Bill Clinton briefly restrained the budget.”
“Alas, all restraint vanished this decade, and the number of subsidy programs has exploded 27 percent with the passing of expansionary laws in agriculture, homeland security, transportation, and other areas.” Thus, the Republican record of the past 10 years looks considerably less conservative upon closer inspection.
When the Republican Party finally nominated Ronald Reagan as its standard bearer in 1980, Reaganite delegates at the convention that year overwhelmingly favored Kemp for the number two spot on the ticket. Media coverage played up former UN ambassador George Bush for this job when an attention-grabbing back-and-forth with former President Gerald Ford fell through.
As history shows, the media got its wish. At a black-tie dinner in the 1980s, Rep. Kemp picked up a football and lobbed a bullet pass at President Reagan. The septuagenarian commander-in chief snatched the ball out of the air one-handed.
At the risk of engaging in alternative history, one wonders what would have happened if the Gipper had, metaphorically, been able to lob such a toss in the opposite direction. Of course, such a handoff would have stalled or derailed the Bush presidential dynasty but would that have been such a bad thing?