Jack Kemp, Bills QB and Congressman, Dead at 73

As I went to ESPN to read up on the big Celtics win, I saw and was surprised by the news that Jack Kemp, former Bills QB who later became the Congressman from Western New York, champion of tax cuts for the wealthy and trickle-down economics, and a presidential candidate in 1988, died at the age of 73.  He had been diagnosed with cancer.

Kemp was known as a good quarterback with a strong arm, and a good leader.  Twice with him as the primary QB, the Bills won the AFL title in 1964 and 1965.  The great Bills’ defense of the mid-1960s rightly gets much of the credit for the team’s success, but it’s worth pointing out that Kemp helped to keep the team steady especially in 1965, when the offense was decimated by injuries especially to the receivers.  Elbert “Golden Wheels” Dubenion and Glenn Bass, two talented receivers, were both injured and missed much of the season.  Yet the team had good leadership, including from Kemp, who never had good statistics that would be anything close acceptable in today’s different game, but could and did lead well.  In the 1965 AFL championship especially, he played some of his best football, and was the better and steadier quarterback in the early QB controversy with talented young QB Daryle Lamonica, who later starred for Oakland in their more wide-open offensive style.

After football, he became a member of the House of Representatives, championing redistributionist economic policies including massive tax cuts especially for the wealthy, and supply-side economics that touted tax cuts as the best way toward economic growth.  I believe in many ways, for better or worse (and those who know me know I consider them for the worse), supply-side economics has been one of the biggest, most destrictive failures of the last forty years, but one that to a significant degree has governed economic policy in the US.  Kemp had much to do with making that popular, and used that as the basis for a run at the presidency in 1988.  He later served as HUD secretary under George H.W. Bush, where in fairness he tried to do some good for everyday people but was undercut from within the Bush administration, by their lack of budgetary priorities on Kemp’s anti-poverty goals, and by the first Gulf War that sapped what relatively modest but still vital funding his initiatives sought to procure.

He was not a guy whose politics were popular with me.  I also felt his reputation as a football player and politician were overstated.  But his influence in sport and politics was nonetheless significant particularly because of his tax policies, and he was popular in politics in my old neck of the woods, in no small part because of his long and successful football career there, during the team’s early glory days.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Kemp.

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Published in: on May 2, 2009 at 11:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

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