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Why Cain’s Flat Tax Plan Appeals To


By James Donahue

While we doubt if Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain will get very far in his campaign for the high office, he has gained at least a brief period of popularity in the poles and media because of his 9-9-9 tax proposal.

What Cain proposes is stripping the old complex and cumbersome tax code and replacing it with a simple, flat nine percent tax. That means a nine percent national sales tax on everything we buy, a nine percent business tax and a nine percent personal income tax on everybody. The estate tax would be eliminated.

Of course Cain’s plan has fallen under intense criticism, which is to be expected during the heat of a political campaign. His critics say the national sales tax would be too harsh on poverty-stricken Americans that are barely holding their heads above water now. Others say that the tax would fall short of meeting the nation’s financial needs based on current revenue estimates.

Cooler heads, however, are looking at the Cain 9-9-9 proposal with interest. They are saying that the numbers may need some tweeking, but that they come close to offering a fair and simplified tax plan that would provide a balanced national budget. But could we live with it?

Bruce Bartlett, who published an analysis of the Cain plan in the New York Times, called it a “distributional monstrosity.” He warned that “the poor would pay more while the rich would have their taxes cut, with no guarantee that economic growth will increase and a good reason to believe that the budget deficit will increase.”

Bartlett said Cain’s three 9s would impact the elderly and poor that currently pay little if any income tax and provide even more rewards for the wealthy than they already have. Also, he said he believes the nine percent sales tax would discourage those who are working (but earning less) from buying non-essential items over and above basic goods and services. And this is not what is needed to get the economy healthy again in our capitalistic society.

The nine percent sales tax, if applied to basic necessities like food, medicine and the cost of heating the home, would hit the low income families especially hard, Bartlett warned.

Bartlett’s points are well taken, and they explain why the nation’s tax code is so complex and difficult to understand. Politicians have been tinkering with the code for years to help give low income families relief while at the same time, slipping “loopholes” within the code that allow the high wage earners and the very wealthy tricks for escaping from paying their fair share.

Every American dreads the winter months when it is time to wade through those complex state and federal income tax forms and try to make sense of them. Most people have resorted to turning the job over to tax professionals and then hope they don’t end up owing more than they can afford to pay.

This may be why Cain’s idea of doing away with the federal income tax altogether and replacing it with a flat nine percent tax on everything sounds so appealing. Without giving it a lot of thought, the idea of escaping the annual trip to the H & R Bloc or some other tax professional, and sweating out the possibility of owing the IRS a big chunk of change most folks can’t afford to pay, sounds really good.

People would almost be willing to sell their souls than go through that annual torture wrack. And if Cain’s plan gets on the table, that might just be what voters have done.

Hopefully nobody is going to take Cain or his tax plan very seriously. He could give that old Bible saying: “The Mark of Cain,” a whole new meaning.