Gloves Off: Critics Take on Cain's 999 Plan

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WASHINGTON -- A new Rasmussen poll shows presidential hopeful Herman Cain beating President Obama for the first time.

According to the Oct. 14-15 survey, voters preferred the former Godfather Pizza CEO 43-41 percent.

One reason Cain is soaring in popularity is his 999 tax reform plan.

"We replace capital gains tax. We replace the payroll tax. We replace corporate income tax, replace personal income tax, and replace the death tax," Cain explained his plan on NBC's "Meet the Press."

He added that he wants to do away with the IRS and its 10 million-word tax code, replacing it with a "9 percent corporate business flat tax, 9 percent personal income flat tax, and a 9 percent national sales tax."

Many, like The Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore, have praised Cain's radical proposal.

"I think we need to blow up the tax system completely," Moore said. "It's not fixable."

GOP candidates will debate Tuesday night in Nevada.  CBN News Chief Political Correspondent David Brody gives insight on what to expect.

While Moore is uneasy with Cain's 9 percent national sales tax, he says the overall plan is so good.

"It would be like steroids for an economy that's flat on its back right now," he said. 

"I think it's a huge job creator," he added. "I think you could literally create a million jobs a month if we had this plan in place."

David Keating, executive director of the influential, anti-tax Club for Growth, is also a fan of the plan.

"You get rid of all the nonsense in the tax code. You make it simple. You get rid of all the waste spent in tax planning and tax preparation, and you bring tax rates down enormously," Keating said.

Liberal Critics

Cain and his revolutionary 999 proposal have also been taking fire from both the left and right for days now.

Economists leaning left say Cain's plan would give significant tax cuts to the wealthy while hiking them substantially on the poor and middle class.

Andrew Fieldhouse, a policy analyst at the Economic Policy Institute, said you could only support the plan if you believe "low- and middle-income households have it way too good, and they should give more of their income to those poor Americans making more than half a million dollars a year."

Michael Ettlinger, vice president of the Center for American Progress, is also less than thrilled with 999.

"It would be the biggest tax shift from the wealthy to the middle class in the history of taxation, ever, anywhere," he said.

Moore, however, scoffs at such claims.

"This idea that creating a pro-growth tax system is going to be regressive is nonsense," he said. "The way to help low-income people is to give them good-paying jobs, and that's what this plan will do."

As for the Republican side, Cain's fellow presidential candidates are very critical of 999.

Even Texas Gov. Rick Perry's wife, Anita, piled on, saying, "When I hear 999, I want to call 911 because it will raise the taxes."

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., offered the most extreme criticism of the 999 plan, jokingly hinting the plan might even be satanic.

"When you take the 999 plan and you turn it upside down, I think the devil's in the details," she said.

Conservative Critics

Most of the criticism from conservatives is aimed at Cain's new 9 percent national sales tax and how it gives government a new revenue source to hike.

"The temptation is always to raise that tax," Moore told CBN News.

Moore said he's suggested to the Cain campaign they drop the controversial national sales tax "and have a nine percent payroll tax instead. Right now you're paying 15 percent payroll tax, so that would still be a tax reduction."

Leading anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform appreciates Cain's motives but not his solution.

"The specifics of the plan are very dangerous," he told CBN News. "At one point you want to cheer him on for diagnosing the problem correctly, cheer him on for saying we ought to move in that direction, but if this bill were being voted on tomorrow, I'd say 'no, no, no, don't do that.'"

Keating disagrees, saying Cain's plan gets rid of so many other taxes that could be raised.

Still, he said Cain could rally Americans to pass a constitutional amendment allowing only the people to hike taxes.

"Several states have that provision. It's very popular," he said.

Cain Defends 999

Cain told CBN News Sr. Political Correspondent David Brody he believes Americans won't allow 999 to become 10-10-10 or something higher.

"They will be in an uproar if Congress tries to raise it because they can't control their spending," he explained.

Cain also said he wants place a cap on his 9 percent tax rates.

"I'm going to ask the members of Congress to include a two-thirds majority vote of the Senate before they could touch the numbers," he said.

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at