Herman Cain’s Sorry Defense of His 9-9-9 Plan

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/5554644997/in/photostream/">Gage Skidmore</a>/Flickr

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


They’re wrong.

That was front-runner Herman Cain’s short and sweet defense against critics who said his 9-9-9 tax reform plan would hike taxes on the working and middle classes during Tuesday’s GOP presidential debate. Cain’s plan would wipe out the current federal tax code and replace it with a 9 percent sales tax, a 9 percent corporate business tax, and a 9 percent income tax. Cain took plenty of heat in the debate after multiple analyses of his 9-9-9 plan—this one by the Tax Policy Center is eye-opening—found it would dramatically increase taxes for the working and middle classes while dramatically slashing taxes for the wealthy.

Or, in chart form (via Kevin Drum):

Tax Policy CenterTax Policy Center

But Cain repeatedly insisted that his critics—and the outside analyses—were wrong. “The thing that I would encourage people to do before they engage in this knee-jerk reaction is read our analysis. It is available at hermancain.com,” he said. His plan, he went on, “is a jobs plan, it is revenue-neutral, it does not raise taxes on those that are making the least.”

Here’s the problem: The analysis (PDF) on Cain’s website doesn’t support what he’s saying. After reading it I called the group who conducted the analysis, northern Virginia-based Fiscal Associates, but no one answered; if they call back I’ll update accordingly. [Updated: see below.] Ezra Klein read the Fiscal Associates analysis, too, and had this to say:

Somewhat oddly, the analysis (pdf) Cain posted from [Fiscal Associates] has the word ‘draft’ emblazoned on the bottom of every page. Confidence inspiring stuff. But even the draft analysis doesn’t tell us much. What we need to know to decide whether the plan will raise taxes on those making the least is what tax wonks call ‘a distributional estimate’—an estimate of what different income groups will pay under the new proposal. There’s no such estimate in the Fiscal Associates Draft.

To be clear, it’s not that the analysis confirms or debunks Cain’s claim that the 9-9-9 plan won’t jack up taxes on the poor and middle class. The analysis doesn’t even say what the impact will be. Which begs the question: Did Cain even read the analysis before citing it to defend the 9-9-9 plan on national TV? I emailed the Cain campaign this afternoon for clarification but have yet to get a response.

[UPDATE: This afternoon, I spoke with Gary Robbins, a former tax expert at the Treasury Department who now runs Fiscal Associates and who the Cain campaign hired to analyze the 9-9-9 plan. Robbins confirmed that his analysis, contrary to what Cain says, does not look at how the 9-9-9 plan would impact tax rates for low- and middle-income earners. “I wasn’t asked to do a distributional analysis,” he says. “Rather I was asked to look at whether it was revenue-neutral, which it is.” Robbins says he doesn’t necessarily agree with the Tax Policy Center’s analysis, but adds that he needs to look at their methodology before making a conclusion about the plan’s effects.]

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate