Congressman Michael Turner

Representing the 10th District of Ohio

Remembering Jack Kemp

May 6, 2009
Column
With the recent passing of former Congressman and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack Kemp, America has not only lost a great public servant, but a true statesman. Secretary Jack Kemp often described himself as a “bleeding-heart conservative,” and throughout his life in public service espoused conservative social and economic principals.
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by Congressman Mike Turner

With the recent passing of former Congressman and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack Kemp, America has not only lost a great public servant, but a true statesman. Secretary Jack Kemp often described himself as a “bleeding-heart conservative,” and throughout his life in public service espoused conservative social and economic principals. He believed whole heartedly that reducing the tax burden on American families is the best way to stimulate the economy, create jobs and ultimately spread prosperity. His sense of enthusiasm and optimism about America’s future was a constant theme throughout his entire career in public service, and is what many Americans from all political persuasions will remember most about his life.

Perhaps because of his middle-class upbringing and his background as a professional football player, Secretary Kemp was unusual in the public arena: a politician who could speak persuasively and with great enthusiasm about conservatism and capitalism to average Americans. He was equally at home in the neighborhoods of Buffalo, New York, the halls of Congress, union halls and in the board rooms of corporations on which he served. He was a strong and vocal proponent of supply side economics, lower taxes, and free markets to achieve greater economic growth. As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1980s, Mr. Kemp pushed through a 25 percent tax cut which became a focal point of President Ronald Reagan’s economic revolution.

Secretary Kemp and I shared many interests and causes, particularly those involving economic development and urban renewal. That is why I asked him to lend his name and support in an advisory capacity to a Republican working group, entitled Saving America’s Cities which I chaired. Through his work in Congress representing Buffalo, New York, and as Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development under President George H. W. Bush, he had witnessed the effects that neglect and decay have on our urban centers and their residents and the important role that urban revitalization plays in strengthening and building our nation’s broader economy.

Secretary Kemp was one of the early champions of empowerment zones which used tax incentives to bring businesses, jobs and opportunity to distressed communities-both rural and urban. Even as he encouraged increasing access to capital, self sufficiency and entrepreneurship, Secretary Kemp always put people before ideology. He believed that tax cuts and the economic growth they created would benefit all communities by creating new jobs and lifting people out of poverty.

Secretary Kemp was interested in reaching out to people outside of his traditional base and was willing to discuss his ideas with anyone he encountered. He firmly believed that the ideas of economic opportunity were equally as important to all families across the economic spectrum.

Secretary Kemp and I shared a belief in the fundamental strength, resilience and character of the American people. Throughout our history we have pulled together to overcome our greatest challenges. Now as America faces a great economic struggle, we would do well to recall and examine the optimism and ideals of Secretary Jack Kemp.