With his recent dramatic rise to second place in the polls, Former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza Herman Cain and his infamous 9-9-9 plan were the belles of the ball at the last two Republican debates.

According to a full analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice, if Cain’s 9-9-9 plan was in effect in 2011 the poorest 60 percent of taxpayers would pay an average of $2,000 more in taxes, while the richest 1 percent of taxpayers would each pay an average of $210,000 less in annual taxes. Making matters worse, the plan would have actually raised $340 billion less in revenue in 2011, meaning that it would make our deficit much worse rather than better.

Since the CTJ analysis was released, the Cain campaign has been dribbling out additional details that change the plan in an ad-hoc fashion as he struggles to defend his tax proposals.

The Washington Post and Bloomberg economic debate on October 11 broke the record for most colorful tax policy jabs, as Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman said he confused the 9-9-9 plan with “the price of a pizza”, while Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann observed that “when you take the 999 plan and you turn it upside down, I think the devil is in the details.”

During the CNN Western debate on October 18, the candidates piled on the 9-9-9 plan, arguing that the imposition of a 9 percent new sales tax would ultimately lead to higher taxes because it would give the federal government another revenue stream and could be raised in the future. Interestingly, this particular charge is not borne out by the evidence from a plethora of countries that have imposed consumption taxes, including in Canada where total revenue collected actually went down after the imposition of its value-added tax.

As we have noted a few times, however, the regressiveness of the 9-9-9 plan is no joke. The plan would replace the entire federal tax code with a nine percent national sales tax, nine percent flat income tax, and a nine percent business flat tax. It’s important to note that although the last component is called a ‘business flat tax’, it’s essentially a payroll tax rather than a flat corporate income tax as the name would imply.

For his part, Cain defended the plan saying that reading his campaign’s full analysis of the 9-9-9 plan (which was only made available publically halfway through the CNN debate) would address the “knee-jerk” reactions to his plan.

His team’s own analysis directly contradicted Cain’s point during the debate that his plan does not contain a “value-added tax.” In reality, the report refers to the business flat tax as a “subtraction method value-added tax.”

Another problem for Cain is that his campaign’s own analysis provides no evidence that the 9-9-9 plan would not be extremely regressive, though it does include a previously unmentioned “poverty grant.”

Apparently, Cain himself knows that this “poverty grant” does not allay the concerns about the plan’s regressive impact, because Cain said the next day that he’s “not going to throw the people at the poverty level under the bus” and that he has “already made provisions for that,” but hasn’t “told the public and my opponents” about what those provisions are yet.

And just today Cain announced even more significant changes to his plan. His tax plan has always included “empowerment zones” that were not defined. The Cain campaign now calls these “opportunity zones” because the word “empowerment” sounded too liberal. It’s still unclear how living in or working in an “opportunity zone” would change one’s tax bill under Cain’s plan, but he announced today that these designated areas could be free of building codes and minimum wage laws.

The Washington Post reports that he will also change his individual tax from a single-rate tax to one with several brackets. If true, this means that Cain’s plan no longer consists of three flat 9 percent taxes… which means he has given up the “9-9-9” plan.

Thank you for visiting Tax Justice Blog. CTJ and ITEP staff will soon retire this domain. But ITEP staff are still blogging! You can find the same level of insight and analysis and select Tax Justice Blog archives at our new blog, http://www.justtaxesblog.org/

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