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October 22, 2011

Criticism Of 9-9-9's Poverty Exemptions, Fair and Unfair

I've been pretty critical of Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan. Specifically on the business tax component with regards to whether it's more like a value added tax or an income tax and more generally on why he's focusing on providing a new funding mechanism for the left's gargantuan government instead of on what parts of it we should be cutting.

At this point, I'm pretty familiar with the plan. Yesterday Cain gave a speech in Detroit and rolled out the 9-9-9 poverty exceptions that he had made reference to after the Las Vegas debate. The Washington Post's headline on the article about the speech is as follows: Herman Cain tweaks 999 plan to help lower-income Americans, and himself

Objective reporting we much!

Cain's plan has included the following two provisions in its summary description for as long as I've been paying attention to it:

  1. 9% Business Flat Tax: Empowerment Zones will offer deductions for the payroll of those employed in the zone
  2. 9% Individual Flat tax: Empowerment Zones will offer additional deductions for those living and/or working in the zone

Seven paragraphs into the article:

Cain has long rejected such criticisms, saying his plan includes “opportunity zones,” which he formally discussed for the first time on Friday.

So where's the "tweak" to the plan in the headline? Changing the name from "Enterprise" to "Opportunity"?

Even further in:

And to address the criticism he is raising taxes on the poor, Cain would exempt people all over the country who are at or below the federal poverty line (about $22,000 for a family of four) from the tax on income.

This part hasn't been specifically called out before. Deep within the analysis (PDF) and related tables (PDF) available from his website, it appears that the version of 9-9-9 that he says is revenue neutral includes poverty exemptions, but there are no details on what form these exemptions would take.

What Cain is guilty of, in a big way, is not fully explaining the details of the plan. That would cut too hard against the simple "9-9-9" soundbite, I guess.

Cain also didn't do himself any favors by claiming that there are pieces of the plan that were withheld from the public and his opponents while simultaneously saying they've been there all along. As Ace noted yesterday, he seems to have a problem with clearly articulating his ideas on multiple fronts.

In any event, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and presume that these details (PDF) of the 9-9-9 plan's poverty exemptions are what he had in mind all along.

Now to the substantive criticism: Why does Cain expect me to bail out the failed blue social model in places like Detroit? Because isn't that really the effect of making people outside the "opportunity zones" pay higher taxes than those within?

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posted by Andy at 01:26 PM

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