by Dee Newman
Jack Kemp was a good and decent man. He truly wanted to help the middle class, minorities and the poor. He wanted all Americans to prosper especially those folks living in our nation’s inner cities.
He meant well, but unfortunately, neither the economic theory he advocated nor the political party he chose to execute it, did anything to increase the fortune of anyone except those whose fortunes were already excessive.
Though Jack Kemp genuinely believed that the Grand Old Party should vastly expand its tent – broaden its base and vision by actively seeking the support of blacks and other ethnic minorities – the party of the privileged and the prejudiced would have none of it.
By the time Jack Kemp began his political career in the late 1970’s, the GOP had become the party of the “southern strategy” and there was nothing culturally enlightened about its conservative leadership and base.
By then, the old Dixiecrats of the south were all Republicans, supporting an agenda that continued to openly and blatantly maintain and defend segregation and white superiority.
The economic theory to which Jack Kemp fanatically devoted his life was supply-side economics. Or, as George H.W. Bush so notably and correctly ridicule as “voodoo economics.”
Kemp believed and argued that by dramatically cutting taxes and government regulations the floodgates of the economy would open and lift all boats equally.
What happened, as we all know now, was that most of the tax cuts went to the rich and powerful, as well as, most of the money from the increased economic activity and speculation. And, the radically reduced tax revenue sent government budget deficits skyrocketing, so much so, that even Ronald Reagan had to later increase taxes.
Kemp claimed not to be worried about the deficits. He seemed to have believed that somehow, somewhere down the road everything would eventually work out.
The ultra-far-right conservatives of the party were delighted by the deficits. They wanted to reduce government revenues in order to shrink government, to cut programs and services that benefited the middle class and those less fortunate, the very people Kemp wished to help.
Using “God,” bigotry (intolerance toward those who hold different views, especially on matters of politics, religion, or ethnicity) and the fear of government regulations of such things as guns, the GOP wooed the white working class especially in the south and sought to convince them that Kemp’s supply-side tax madness would ultimately trickle-down to benefit them.
Time and time again, the white southern working-class were convinced to vote against their own self-interests. Ironically, while they were left in the humiliating position of waiting for some crumbs to filter down to them, every scheme imaginable was employed to enhance the fortunes of the rich and powerful, leaving all of us in the devastating economic predicament we now find ourselves.
Sadly, the economic changes and theory Jack Kemp vociferously advocated and helped to guide into law, though they radically transformed our economic system, they proved to only benefit the rich and powerful, eventually leaving our nation’s economy and the very people he said he wanted to help in shambles.