and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column

Kemp passing brings back memories
of campaigns and causes past
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, May 7, 2009

"The world is young today;
Forget the gods are old,
Forget the years of gold,
When all the months were May.
Digby Mackworth Dolben

We were both young then, Jack Kemp and I, in the spring of 1978.

He was one of the gods of football, recently morphed into one of the gods of the political right. The former quarterback for the Buffalo Bills had been elected the Republican congressman from Buffalo.

I was a political neophyte, volunteering for the campaign of Bill Bronson, who was running against liberal Congressman Michael Harrington here in the 6th District. For some reason, I'd been assigned to a committee organizing the campaign kickoff dinner that was to feature Congressman Kemp at a function hall in Danvers. The other two committee members were men from the Marblehead Regiment, recently formed for the Bicentennial.

Fred Bauer and Bob Erbetta were chosen for their known creativity and patriotism; I was picked probably because I had only a part-time job as a lifeguard at the YMCA, so could put in the hours to make phone calls seeking support for the event.

Nevertheless, I think I was the one who had the brilliant idea of getting Nerf balls for the former quarterback to sign. This is safe to say since Bob now recalls that it was Fred, and Fred thinks it was Bob; neither guessed me.

Regardless, we went directly to Parker Brothers in Salem for a bucket of balls, which Kemp autographed for an additional donation at the event. It was my job to hand him a little football for each fan, and I remember that he was gracious. Erbetta, who picked him up at the airport, called him "a real gentleman."

Erbetta also remembers going with Bronson to the Boston Tea Party ship, where the candidate tossed an empty crate into the harbor to symbolize "the failure and enormous cost of the liberal experiment." Last month, Erbetta attended the Tea Party rally on Boston Common, I guess to symbolize continued resistance despite the recent successes of the costly liberal experiment. True patriots never give up.

Fred Bauer, who created Bronson's campaign slogan "He's tough and he listens" remembers having to explain to his wife, Jane, why she found a pair of panty hose, not her size, in his glove compartment during that campaign.

All I can remember is that I hated wearing panty hose, so on the rare occasions when I dressed up, I'd put them on over briefs so I could pull off the tight nylon leggings right after an event.

Another odd memory: I recall Jack Kemp at a later event, always a good sport but sitting somewhat embarrassed while Donna Nelson, the then-wife of the Republican State Committee chairman, Gordon Nelson, did her traditional campaign-event belly dance, wrapping a scarf around the congressman's neck. Republicans had a lot more fun back in those golden days.

Another personal memory of Kemp comes from 1995, when he'd been appointed by Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich to chair the Economic Growth and Tax Reform Commission, which traveled the country to hear suggestions. Then-governor Bill Weld and I were invited to testify in Boston, and I remember arguing with Kemp when it was my turn about my support for the "no new taxes" pledge. Finally another commission member, the CEO of Domino's Pizza, had to step in to make peace, noting that there could be new taxes if they merely replaced the old taxes. Well, OK then.

The commission's final report recommended a single, unspecified income-tax rate in place of the federal graduated rate structure; a generous personal exemption; no taxes on interest, dividends, capital gains or inheritances; additional retirement savings incentives; and a new deduction for payroll taxes. Kemp later recommended taxing fringe benefits such as health insurance, which is being discussed today.

Kemp's economic vision was for "the new world that this new system will create ... a climate of economic growth. It will lift incomes, reduce interest rates, put people to work, reduce the use of tax shelters, (and) reduce the need for social safety-net spending."

He'd had some success in these areas with the Kemp-Roth tax cut during the Reagan administration, but the flat tax never happened. And the growth created by cutting taxes simply funded more spending, which increased beyond the new revenues and added to the national debt. Jack Kemp, an enthusiastic all-American optimist, may have missed the inevitable, irresponsible momentum of political spending.

Anyhow, Bill Bronson didn't win either of his two campaigns for Congress, and Jack Kemp didn't win later campaigns for president and vice president. Fred is now known as Marshall Bauer on his Web site ( that celebrates staying young at heart; and Bob Erbetta is running a business, "Aging in Place," which sets up homes for safer living as we age.

I am aging happily myself, using it as an excuse not to do anything I don't want to do, including wearing panty hose.

Gordon Nelson died long ago and Kemp died last week, leaving us with memories of early years of political activism, when all the months were May, and anything was possible.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.