28 September 2011

In which I take a look at a candidate who's gone from an afterthought to this week's cause célèbre.

Why in the hell is anyone taking Herman Cain seriously?

I suppose I ask that question as a subset of the question "why is anyone taking any of the Republican Presidential candidates seriously?"

This guy's website is a riot, unless you take him seriously. At that point it becomes downright frightening.

His "999 Plan" -- and by the way I can guarantee you that if he were a Democrat, the religious right would immediately note that it's really a "666 Plan" turned upside down to fool you...who knows, they're probably saying that about Mr. Cain as well...seriously...Cain, the Bible's first murderer...the "999">"666"...c'mon, it could only be more obvious if he had horns on his head and carried a pitchfork -- oh yeah, but back to the plan.

Anyway, his "999 Plan" combines the regressive elements of a flat tax on income with the even more regressive 9% national sales tax. Proponents of the 9% sales tax suggest that it will encourage saving and thrift, but they apparently don't understand that Joe Jones who earns $22,000 a year and Chauncey Witherspoon who earns $250,000 a year both have to fill their cars with gas and eat food to stay alive and that both of them will pay the same new 9% on those everyday expenses (no details on the website as to whether food is taxable under his plan...currently some states tax food and some don't). Additionally, does Cain intend to put his 9% national sales tax on top of the existing state (and in some cases municipal) sales taxes?

For example, California has the highest state sales tax at 7.25% (before you California haters start hating, understand that with municipal taxes added in, some regions of Alabama, Arizona, and Illinois actually have higher sales taxes than California's maximum local + state sales taxes). So let's imagine that state sales taxes remain in place (after all, sales tax is currently a significant chunk of state revenue in states that have sales taxes) and Mr. Cain manages to pass his 9% national sales tax. That gives us a whopping 16.25% tax on most items purchased in California. In some parts of Illinois, your sales tax would be 20% once local, state, and federal sales taxes were applied.

His corporate policies are even friendlier, with corporations being allowed to avoid most of the taxation by hiding income as "investment" and as an added kicker, dividends paid to shareholders are exempted from the corporate tax. The interesting thing would be to see how Mr. Cain would treat dividends on the shareholder's end...currently they're taxed in most cases around the same rate as capital gains, and Mr. Cain would eliminate capital gains. Would he treat dividends as capital gains, or would they be lumped into general income? If he treats them as capital gains, then he could pull off the amazing feat of taking these items from the conservative talking point of "double-taxation" to the la la land of tax-free income.

Aside from the general regressiveness of his policies toward individuals, and the friendliness of them toward corporations, his website is full of meaningless platitudes, which I suppose many politicians' websites are. This little gem, however, is a real keeper:
A dollar must always be a dollar just as an hour is always 60 minutes.
Last I checked, a dollar always was a dollar. It's the exchange rate that varies. Is he proposing to eliminate inflation? To set exchange rates? I'm not sure what the hell he means.

Which of course brings me back to my initial question: why the hell is anyone taking this joker seriously?

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