Michael Hiltzik: The Cain Monstrosity

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As long as Americans demonstrate a limitless thirst for tax nostrums, there will be politicians around to slake it. My Wednesday column places Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan in historical context. The plan, such as it is, can be found here. USC expert Edward Kleinbard’s analysis can be downloaded here. Be forewarned: It makes depressing reading.

The column starts below.

Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan would probably be seen as just another cockamamie tax scheme were it not for his surprising ascendance to front-runner ranks in the Republican Party primary.

Yet one of the more interesting questions raised by the plan hasn’t gotten much attention: What accounts for the enduring popularity of such tax nostrums, when they never pencil out?

Cain’s proposal, which purportedly would replace today’s federal tax code with a flat 9% personal income tax, a flat 9% corporate tax and a flat 9% national sales tax, has the surface appeal of an advertising slogan. He maintains it would be “fair” and “simple,” get the government “out of our pockets,” allow for the abolition of the IRS and create a huge surge in economic growth.


There’s reason to be skeptical about these claims, because every tax scheme mooted during a political campaign makes the same promises, and none ever seems to be rooted in political or economic realities here on planet Earth. One feature they all share, as it happens, is their murkiness, and 9-9-9 is no exception.

Read the whole column.


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-- Michael Hiltzik