In Washington, when a majority of the resident wise persons simultaneously conclude that a particular public person (hereafter to be called PPP) has recently "grown," that usually means that a) the PPP's positions have "grown" publicly closer to those of the wise persons and/or b) that the PPP has now or will soon have more political power than the wise persons previously believed the PPP to have.
The latest Republican office-holder to endure growth paeans is Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bob Dole of Kansas. Last week, Dole won Senate passage of an election-year tax bill that would, over the next three years, raise revenues by $100 billion and cut spending by $17 billion. That is not the common practice in an election year. By Thanksgiving, Dole's July achievement will be remembered as a shrewd act of political statesmanship or as an act of political suicide that robbed the GOP of the tax-cut issue in the 1982 campaign. Or it may be forgotten.
While Bob Dole was taking bows on the Senate side of Capitol Hill, Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), the principal architect and persuasive advocate of supply- side economics, was taking questions before a standing-room only crowd of congressional interns.
These are not the easiest of times for Jack Kemp. True, more than most presidential candidates and even more than some presidents, Kemp has influenced the national debate and helped set the national agenda. Largely because of his forceful championing of his tax-reduction plan, the Republicans in 1980 became, for many, the party of hope and opportunity and optimism. His tax-cut plan became Candidate Reagan's platform and President Reagan's program. And the law of the land. If Reaganomics is judged a failure, then Reagan will not be the sole political casualty. Kemp's political future rides, as well, on the monthly reports on unemployment and the economy.
Kemp, exceptionally effective on the supply-side cause, reminded his audience that "the dollar was once as good as gold." But, like the president he supports, Kemp, with the passage of his bill in the summer of 1981, got what he wanted and had prescribed. It is now politically too late for legislative postscripts.
Then, the question about the balanced-budget constitutional amendment. Some in his audience recalled that Kemp, virtually alone of conservative House Republicans, refused to take, during a Democratic administration, the contradictory positions of concurrently supporting a 33 percent tax cut and a balanced budget amendment. "The balanced-budget constitutional amendment," said Kemp about the proposal that Bob Dole sponsors and Ronald Reagan waxes ecstatic, "is a legislative sideshow. The crowd, for the first time in an hour-long speech, interrupted Jack Kemp with sustained applause. Maybe as much for his consistency as for his courage. In the unheroic political climate of 1982, anyone with the courage and the consistency publicly to knock a balanced-budget constitutional amendment deserves credit, at the least, for not shrinking, if not for his "growth."