The lion of the Senate and small business

The lion is dead.

The senior Senator from Massachusetts, Edward Moore Kennedy, has lost his battle with brain cancer, which, like the rain, falls on the just and the unjust, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak.

The only thing the name Kennedy is more synonymous with than wealth, public service, power and privilege is unspeakable tragedy. It has been said that to whom much is given much is required. In the case of clan Kennedy, much has indeed been given, but surely too much has been taken away. Now the youngest child of Joe and Rose has been taken by a tragic disease.

In the hours since his death, many have reflected on his life and work, including those who agreed with his politics and those who didn’t. I am in the latter camp.

I didn’t know the Senator, but we have mutual friends and they loved him. Apparently, you were fortunate if he called you friend. And it’s admirable that, for someone to the manor born, he could have lived a life of leisure but chose rather to dedicate his energy to public service. That service, however, too often was at cross-purposes with two things that I love and have dedicated my own life’s work and energy to: the marketplace and small businesses.

For years I have been an ardent and public critic of Senator Kennedy for championing issues that I believe are harmful to small businesses. For example: minimum wage increases, laws that promote unionism, carbon emission laws that threaten the competitiveness of U.S. businesses, innumerable tax increases and the one about which he was the most passionate, his Big Kahuna, universal health care.

He was known as the “liberal lion of the Senate.” For the same reasons that he earned that moniker, I gave him another one: the arch-enemy of small business. I think I know enough about the Senator to believe that he wouldn’t want me to be a hypocrite today, so I still stand by that appraisal of his record.

There is at least on thing that Kennedy and I had in common: a sometimes ill-advised courage of our convictions. I much prefer those who feel strong enough about their ideas to declare them. Unfortunately, in my opinion, most of the public policy convictions Kennedy declared I consider the work of someone out of touch with what has made America great, our free market system.

But Ted Kennedy was an icon for something else that is great about America, individualism. God help us if America ever stops producing individuals like Ted Kennedy and if it ever prevents such an individual from declaring his convictions – even when I disagree with them.

Rest in peace, Senator Kennedy; I won’t miss your work but I will miss your spirit.

Recently, on my small business radio program I talked about Senator Kennedy with two members of my Brain Trust. Rich Galen, publisher of Mullings.com, a Republican who worked on the other side of Kennedy’s policies, and Bill Brandt, President of DSI, Inc., a Democrat, who was a friend of Ted Kennedy for over 30 years. Take a few minutes to listen to these conversations, and be sure to leave your thoughts.

For Rich Galen:
For Bill Brandt:

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