Despite the roll-off-the-tongue nature of the title, GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 Plan seems to be falling out of favor with voters. The Washington Post reports that 56 percent of hardcore conservatives don‘t like the nine percent flat tax.
But, perhaps as a sign that Cain’s candidacy isn’t being taken seriously, aside from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, very little analysis has actually been done of the changes to the 9-9-9 Plan. Instead, analysts and journalists are taking note of Rick Perry’s newly introduced flat tax plan. The Washington Post notes conservative praise of the plan, while TPM insists its merely designed to cut taxes for the rich.
Perry’s plan doesn’t scrap existing tax law altogether, but rather creates a new, parallel tax code that taxes individual and corporate income at 20 percent. Investment income would go untaxed. Every tax payer would have a choice between staying in the current system, or transferring over to the new one. But as Michael Linden, a tax expert at the liberal Center for American Progress, points out, the new, simpler, alternative code would constitute a tax increase for most Americans and a huge tax cut for wealthy Americans, creating incentives for a small well-to-do sliver of the country to make the switch, and for everyone else to stay put.
Still, last week, Cain tried to stem criticism that the plan disproportionately helps the rich by saying he’d be introducing the 9-0-9 Plan for poor people. While the 9-9-9 plan could potentially raise taxes by 900 percent on poor people, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, by ejecting the middle "9," Cain would be eliminating income tax for poor folks who don’t earn much money.
"If you are at or below the poverty level," Cain said, "your plan isn’t 9-9-9, it’s 9-zero-9."
Funny enough, folks who would pay zero income tax under Cain’s plan are the same people who don’t pay income tax now, yet frequently get berated by GOPers for it. Several candidates, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann have complained that nearly half of Americans don’t pay income tax. Yet the number one reason is because they don’t have high enough incomes.
Cain also expanded his plan for "opportunity zones" in poor neighborhoods. They would be areas where businesses would get additional, unspecified "deductions" as incentives to hire the impoverished and unemployed.
So, does Cain’s plan actually help poor folks—who are disproportionately people of color? Signs point to no, though it’s difficult to find an expert who’s given it much thought. The plan cuts taxes on the rich, and according to one expert, it increases the burden on middle class people, who are currently struggling to stay above the poverty line.
"You’re going to have big increases for everybody else to make up for the revenue loss," Roberton Williams of the Tax Policy Center told ABC news. "The middle group is going to get clobbered because they are going to have to pay the bulk of taxes."