The University Record, February 13, 1995
By Jared Blank
Record Special Writer
"I don't have to run for president to keep my ideas alive," Jack Kemp assured an overflow crowd of disappointed supporters at the first presentation of the J. Ira Harris Distinguished Lectureship Series last Wednesday. "We're going to get Empower America to keep the cause alive."
Although Kemp, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development and co-founder of the conservative think-tank Empower America, has decided not to run for office, he sounded like a man on the campaign trail, outlining his plans for "empowering America."
"The question of leadership is to tap it, unleash it. We could have a golden age, and it takes some ingredients," including privatizing public housing, free trade, a stable dollar and a reformed tax code, Kemp said.
He advocated a flat 17 percent income tax, the elimination of the capital gains tax, and the elimination of income taxes for families of four making less than $38,000. He suggested we should not be afraid to lower the top tax bracket for the sake of jump-starting the economy. "We are too afraid that someone else in America will get rich."
Kemp blamed the current tax and welfare codes for the state of economic lethargy in America's big cities. He believes "there is tremendous potential in our cities being wasted because of the smothering of the entrepreneurial spirit. I don't understand why the president continually suggests people support a tax bill ... in which we say we will only let people get this [successful]."
Kemp made it clear that his ideas are not based on partisan politics. "I'm not here to rag on the president. I supported him on NAFTA, on GATT, on the World Trade Organization. Pat Buchanan went crazy ... I've been called a witchdoctor, a snake oil salesman, a dangerous riverboat gambler, a voodoo economist. And that's only coming from my own party."
Throughout the speech, Kemp reiterated his theme of private ownership. He expounded on the virtues of privatizing health care and public housing projects, and allowing the poor to own their own homes by providing very-low-interest loans. The key to keeping these private ventures affordable, according to Kemp, is "competition, competition, competition."
Kemp's philosophy is that empowerment of the poor begins by making them contributors to the economy. "Treat [the poor] with dignity. Allow them to be consumers," Kemp suggests. "You do not need to tell people to improve that which they own. We have an obligation ... to the poor to give them a ladder out of poverty."
Kemp came to campus as the first speaker in the J. Ira Harris Distinguished Lectureship Series of the School of Business Administration. Harris (BBA, '59) supports several educational initiatives, including the lectureship series and the J. Ira Harris International Fellowship Program. The lectureship is designed to bring influential members of business and public policy groups to campus for discussions throughout the year.