The centerpiece of former pizza czar Herman Cain’s presidential campaign is his “999” plan, which would slash taxes on the wealthy, drive up deficits to the worst point since World War II, and force low-income Americans to pay a massive nine times their current tax rate. In an interview this morning with CNN’s Candy Crowley, Cain even said food and clothing would not be exempt from the 9 percent national sales tax he would put in place if elected president. Indeed, he said it would be “fair” for a poor person to pay as much in sales taxes as Crowley does:
CROWLEY: Is there any exception, as you see it, in this consumption tax? Except for clothing, perhaps? Except for food? […]
CAIN: Nope, you don’t have to do that. Nope, you don’t have to do that. […]
CROWLEY: So a poor person is paying the same amount of taxes on groceries as I am? Does that sound fair to you, just in a vacuum?
CAIN: Yes, it does sound fair because of the other point I’m about to make. If they need to buy a car or a home or some hard goods that are used, they pay no taxes.
Because he says his plan would lower the income tax for some Americans — and, by his calculations, leave people with more money to spend — Cain seems to think his plan would leave low-income Americans with more money. He is wrong. Presently, the bottom quintile of earners pays about 2 percent of their income in federal taxes. Under Cain’s plan, their taxes would increase all the way up to 18 percent.
Taxing poor people’s food is considered so beyond the pale that even the Tea Party group FreedomWorks assumed that the final version of Cain’s tax plan would exempt food from the sales tax. Thirty-one states charge no sales tax on food, and others tax food at a lower rate than other goods or provide rebates for eligible households to offset the tax. Only two states, Mississippi and Alabama, charge full sales tax on food.
This week, Cain said his plan would not be regressive because “It expands the base so that everybody has a lower rate. And it is not regressive on the poor.” Clearly, he is ignoring how his tax plan would actually affect hardworking Americans, especially when it comes to the food they buy so that they can feed their families.