Political Animal


October 04, 2011 9:20 AM About that 9-9-9 plan…

By Steve Benen

The basis for much of Herman Cain’s presidential campaign is what he calls the “9-9-9” economic plan. It’s basically Cain’s approach to tax policy, in which he envisions a system with a 9% income tax, a 9% corporate tax, and a 9% sales tax. The cast of “Fox & Friends” just loves the idea.

The plan hasn’t been subjected to much scrutiny, in part because Cain isn’t seen as a credible challenger, but so long as he’s rising in the polls, it’s worth taking a moment to give this idea a quick look.

The obvious problem, of course, is that tax rates this low simply won’t generate a sufficient amount of funds. In short, Cain’s numbers don’t add up. If the country were to adopt 9-9-9, the prospect of reducing the debt would disappear, and much of the federal government would have to be dismantled. Perhaps that’s the idea — in a feature-not-a-bug sort of way — but it’s not going to happen. Cain is selling a pipe dream.

But that’s only part of the problem. Fox’s Chris Wallace asked Cain the other day about 9-9-9 simply turning into 12-12-12 as fiscal requirements grow. The Republican candidate said he wouldn’t allow that: “In the legislation that I’m going to ask Congress to send me, I want a two-thirds vote required by the Senate in order for them to change it. That will impede cavalierly raising it.”

As Paul Waldman explained yesterday, that’s quite nutty.

[T]his sounds like a great precedent. Why didn’t every previous president think of that? Whenever a bill you support is ready to be passed, insert a provision demanding a supermajority to undo it. And why stop at 2/3? Why not have a 9/10 supermajority requirement, or a 99/100, or just go all the way and legislate that changing your legislation will require a 100-0 vote in the Senate and a 435-0 vote in the House?

Exactly. I’m sure every president in history would have loved to include provisions in preferred legislation making it nearly impossible for future policymakers to change their handiwork. Our system of government, though, doesn’t work that way.

Cain apparently doesn’t know that, but he should. In some circles, voters are impressed by political candidates who run without any experience in or knowledge of American civics, but that’s a shame. Had Cain ever held any public office at any level, he might understand what is and isn’t possible.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • MsJoanne on October 04, 2011 9:30 AM:

    Didn't CA do that 'no tax increases without a 2/3 majority vote' thing?

    I do like the idea of corporations paying something. Nine percent from GE is about 11 percent more than they're paying now.

  • berttheclock on October 04, 2011 9:30 AM:

    Interesting that this AM, there was a discussion about a super majority tax increase voting requirement strangling California. Another comment mentioned how AHnold had found out the hard way that many California voting citizens want services, but, they do not want to have to pay for them.

  • DAY on October 04, 2011 9:32 AM:

    Cain comes from the corporate world, where the CEO is all powerful- as long as he has a compliant board of directors, who will rubber stamp his decisions. Including stock options for all and corporate retreats with lots of booze and lovely girls. or boys.

    Come to think of it, the latter part sounds a lot like congress. . .

  • c u n d gulag on October 04, 2011 9:35 AM:

    Well, I don't think we'll hear much more from poor Herman "Herb" Cain and his "9-9-9" Plan.

    After his critisism of Perry, he's turned himself into "666," the 'Mark of the Beast' - and a black one at that.

    Maybe he can share that distinction with Obama, and they each get '3-3-3.'

  • Lifelong Dem on October 04, 2011 9:35 AM:

    How come nobody has asked Cain what a 9% national sales tax would do to pizza sales?

  • Danp on October 04, 2011 9:40 AM:

    9-9-9 sounds like a great deal - for pizza. Nine pizzas, nine toppings, nine dollars. What could go wrong?

  • Ron Byers on October 04, 2011 9:41 AM:

    The 9-9-9 tax has another problem. A 9% national sales tax hits the poor and working class harder than the folks at the top of the ladder. Why does Herman Cain hate the working and middle class?

  • berttheclock on October 04, 2011 9:44 AM:

    Should he or any other RepuG prevail, we will need the 911 plan on our speed dials.

  • Krowe on October 04, 2011 9:44 AM:

    @ Ron Byers:
    Because he's a Republican. It's what they do.

  • Trollop on October 04, 2011 9:46 AM:

    Is that German?

    The irony of if on the absolutely impossible chance that he did get elected, his party would want the new ni##er out of the white house too.

  • zandru on October 04, 2011 9:48 AM:

    More On CEOs

    A rightwing friend observed that Cain's resume includes many high-level stints at major companies, and that, on paper, he looks rather impressive.

    But, as others have observed, there's that "CEO thing" - just coming in and taking over a successful company is not necessarily that big a deal; others built it up and the lower level staffing is what actually makes it run. Carly Fiorina took over HP and it was literally years after she had left that most folks finally realized that she had run it into the ground.

    So a company gets a new "bungee CEO" (thanks, Scott Adams!) who takes over, shakes things up, makes a big splash in the financial news for his innovativeness yada yada, and if he's smart, moves on before the whole house of cards collapses.

    In other words, CEOs these days move through businesses like wrecking balls and don't get pegged with the consequences - just higher and higher pay and bennies. They're less "captains of industry" than "pirates of industry."

    And - this experience teaches them absolutely nothing about government, governing, and the democratic system.

  • berttheclock on October 04, 2011 9:58 AM:

    Please, RepuG voters, just say NEIN.

  • T2 on October 04, 2011 9:58 AM:

    did Cain develop this 999 thing on this own...his own brain? Where did this come from? Sounds like a Norquist scheme or some other backwoods splinter group.

  • Diane Rodriguez on October 04, 2011 10:22 AM:

    The biggest role for Cain in the Republican nomination hootenanny is to provide a foolish Black man that spouts conservative ideals. He is the quintessential stereotype, which is the Republican understanding of people of color - stereotypes. In the Republican viewpoint of the world, he is both a foil to Obama and an example of their diversity. Predictable that they selected a man whose demeanor is often "angry" and who profligates dumb shit. They probably could have gotten Harold Ford for a few extra dollars - he really hates Obama and he's also of mixed race.

  • T2 on October 04, 2011 10:44 AM:

    good comments Diane. I think that Cain may be smart enough to realize that by stirring the Ni**erhead incident, he'll effectively insure that Perry won't strongly criticize him in future debates or risk really looking like a bigot. Cain may not be that smart, but that's the way it will be anyway. If Christie doesn't get in, we'll go back to Perry/Romney and Cain will be marginalized. It is a GOP nightmare that he'd actually win some primaries.

  • jim filyaw on October 04, 2011 10:56 AM:

    "for every complicated problem, there is a solution that is clear, simple, and wrong."

    h.l. mencken (circa 1920's)

  • Tigershark on October 04, 2011 11:09 AM:

    Cain's plan make as much sense as any other political idea designed in a pizza company's marketing department: "3 pizzas for $9 each! 9-9-9!"

  • TCinLA on October 04, 2011 12:11 PM:

    Over recent weeks, I have had conversations with women friends who have been long-time activists in the feminist movement, and black friends who have been long-time activists in the civil rights movement, and both parties are dismayed that all that work over all these years has resulted in one highly-competent woman running for President with the result that a drooling moron who happens to be a woman can now be taken seriously as a presidential candidate, while the election of one highly-competent African-American to the presidency means that an idiot who would be seen as a clown in any other circumstance can now be taken as a serious candidate for the presidency.

    Further proof one needs to exercise caution in what they ask for. :-)

  • independent on October 04, 2011 12:35 PM:

    All I can say is at least he has a plan that actually sounds like some changes would be made. I don't hear any other candidates talking about changes other than the same old decrease deficit, cut spending, raise/don't raise taxes. That xxxx ain't working and hasn't been for 25 years. Tt is time for a realchange even if is doesn't work at least we will go down trying.

  • doubtful on October 04, 2011 1:19 PM:

    I don't hear any other candidates talking about changes other than the same old decrease deficit, cut spending, raise/don't raise taxes.

    That's all this plan is, too, you poorly disguised paid shill. And the only reason you don't hear is because you don't listen.

  • Stephen Stralka on October 04, 2011 2:03 PM:

    independent--Have you ever seen this syllogism?

    We have to do something.
    X is something.
    Therefore we have to do X.

    It's a fallacy, of course, but that's basically what you're saying. Besides, under Cain's plan we will necessarily cut spending drastically, and it sure as hell isn't a tax increase, so it's not like it's a real change anyway. All of the Republican candidates are basically proposing to dismantle the entire government, and this just happens to be the way Cain wants to do it.

    Of course, if he's going to insist on a provision requiring a 2/3 majority to repeal his law, then it seems pretty obvious that it's going to require a 2/3 majority to pass it in the first place. You really don't even have to argue against this idea--you can just stand back and watch it collapse under the weight of its own stupidity.

  • Roger Ailes on October 04, 2011 4:33 PM:

    Is 9-9-9 an economic plan or the readout of Chris Christie's digital scale?

  • Wstephenhart on October 04, 2011 7:38 PM:

    Can he put his plan in a three-page bill?