Keep the Set-Asides, Says Kemp

Jack Kemp discusses his views and what they mean to affirmative action

Washington Technology recently spoke with Jack Kemp about his support for greater use of technology in government management as well as his enthusiastic support of affirmative actions programs, such as the 8(a) set-aside program,

Kemp, who recently joined the board of Oracle Corp., has been an advocate of affirmative action programs within the Republican party. The former GOP presidential candidate, director of Housing and Urban Development under former President George Bush and all-star pro-football quarterback, is co-chair of Washington-based Empower America, a conservative group that advocates lower taxes, "traditional values," deregulation and other issues. He has also been charged by Congress with preparing a Republican tax reform plan.

WT: What are your views on affirmative action?

KEMP: Affirmative efforts to open up opportunities for all of our people to compete as fairly and openly on the field as is possible. Right now the field is not level. I don't favor a wholesale slaughter of the affirmative action programs. I think what [Sen.] Bob Dole, R-Kan., called for originally, to review [affirmative action programs], is a legitimate exercise. But we should not throw the baby out with the bath wash.

We need to make an overhaul of the tax code and regulatory climate. Our educational system has to be opened up to vouchers for inner-city schools to compete more openly [with] the suburban schools. There are [many] things that must happen in education, capital formation, jobs and entrepreneurship that I think would obviate the necessity of even having affirmative action.

WT: Is there any way to have affirmative action if you kill the 8(a) set-aside or small disadvantaged business programs?

KEMP: Absent getting from here to that more competitive educational environment, more competitive tax code, more access to capital and credit, people [will] be pushing for more set-asides.

Set-asides are the response of people that have been shut out from access to capital and property. I say this as an Anglo-Republican, as a conservative who doesn't like race-based or gender-based quotas. But, if you look at blacks, they represent 12 percent of the American population and they own less than one-half of one percent of the total capital stock of America. For the majority of their life in America as a people, they were shut out of the system, systematically excluded, first by slavery, then by Jim Crow. Today, the regulatory and tax climate and discrimination have prevented many black and minority men and women from going into business. We're not there yet. I'm not prepared to offer the alternative to a set-aside. I would hope there would be one.

WT: How can the industry move from set-asides to your vision?

KEMP: Industry better because the courts are deciding for them. The courts have forced us to come to grips with this issue. To that extent, it's good and useful. I want to stress, it didn't end affirmative action. I don't think this should be the political issue of 1996. It should not be used as a wedge issue either from the left, such as Jesse Jackson, or from the right. Why? Because it divides us on color and race.

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