Bruce Bartlett

In the area of taxation, there is probably nothing that drives Democrats crazier than when they hear Republicans praise John F. Kennedy's tax cut and compare their tax cuts to his. Unfortunately, Democrats keep running up against Kennedy's own statements and actions, which show a clear parallel to Republican tax policies since 1980.

In 1997, Robert Shrum, a Democratic Party political hack, attacked the National Association of Manufacturers for producing a TV spot that simply showed Kennedy speaking his own words on why a tax cut was needed in 1963. Two years ago, President Kennedy's daughter, Caroline, and his brother, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mas., tried to stop Republican groups like the Club for Growth from using JFK's name and image in support of President Bush's tax cut.

Republicans responded, quite rightly, that neither President Kennedy's family nor the Democratic Party owns the rights to his words and actions. Others are perfectly free to use them -- or those of any other president -- in support or opposition to any current policy question, provided that they are used accurately. In this case, there is simply no denying that President Kennedy's words -- especially in his speech to the Economic Club of New York on Dec. 14, 1962 -- would more likely be spoken by a Republican than a Democrat today.

This is not coincidental. When Rep. Jack Kemp, R-N.Y., first began pushing for a big tax cut in the late 1970s, he got his inspiration from John F. Kennedy. I know because I was on Kemp's staff and had the job of drafting the Kemp-Roth Bill, which later formed the basis of Ronald Reagan's 1981 tax cut. Among those advising Kemp in this regard was Norman Ture, one of the fathers of supply-side economics and a key player in the development of the Kennedy tax cut.

Ture's role in the Kennedy tax cut is detailed a recent book, "Taxing America: Wilbur D. Mills, Congress and the State, 1945-1975" by historian Julian Zelizer. He notes that Ture was a close adviser to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Wilbur Mills, D-Arkansas. While serving on the staff of the Joint Economic Committee, of which Mills was also a member, Ture taught Mills the importance of marginal tax rates, incentives for saving and investment, and other aspects of supply-side doctrine.


Bruce Bartlett

Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.

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