9-9-9: Herman Cain’s tax plan exists in another world

Washington Bureau

When Herman Cain first revealed his “9-9-9” tax plan, it sparked instant speculation that the former pizza chain executive might have been applying pizza marketing techniques to his campaign for president.

But then the Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel discovered another possible inspiration: The video game SimCity4.

The game allows players to create virtual cities and build the rules for their virtual societies. The default tax plan bears a striking resemblance to Cain’s 9-9-9 plan: a 9% housing tax, a 9% commercial tax and a 9% industrial tax. (Cain’s plan would impose a 9% personal income tax, a 9% business tax and a 9% sales tax.)


The similarity was met with enthusiasm by the game’s maker, Electronic Arts, which is now offering it at a special sale price of $9.99, Terkel reported Monday.

EA also put out a video that features Sim-style versions of Cain, President Obama, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

“Your 9-9-9 plan? Not so fast, Mr. Cain,” it says. “… the 9-9-9 is a video game plan.”

“The original SimCity invited gamers to build a more perfect society,” the company said in a news release posted to its website last week. “You could zone land at will, weave hyper-efficient power grids, and make the trains run on time with a few strategic clicks. For truly skilled tacticians, even Godzilla was just a bump in the road on the way to Utopia. Maybe that’s why it comes as no great surprise to see that part of SimCity 4’s aspirational framework — the “999” tax plan — finally has some real world political converts.”

Kip Katsarelis, a senior producer at EA’s Maxis unit, said that the company, “encourage[s] politicians to continue to look to innovative games like SimCity for inspiration for social and economic change. While we at Maxis and Electronic Arts do not endorse any political candidates or their platforms, it’s interesting to see GOP candidate Herman Cain propose a simplified tax system like one we designed for the video game SimCity 4.”

Asked at a campaign stop last week if the 9-9-9 idea came from the SimCity game, Cain called the assertion a “lie” and used the opportunity to hit on what has become his new favorite talking point — that his front-runner status has made him the victim of unfair media attention.


“It’s an original idea,” he said. “…That’s the difference when you become one and two in the polls. People make up stuff. That is a lie. And I’m not going to take it back.”

This is not the first time that a Cain reference has been traced back to the world of popular culture. In closing remarks at an August debate, Cain used a quote that he attributed to a poet, but that actually came from the theme song of the film “Pokemon: The Movie 2000.”

“A poet once said, ‘life can be a challenge, life can seem impossible, but it’s never easy when there’s so much on the line,’” Cain said. That line actually came from disco artist Donna Summer, who recorded it in a song, “The Power of One,” for the Pokemon movie, which was released in 1999.