As former pizza magnate Herman Cain has risen to the top of Republican presidential primary polls, his “999” tax plan has faced increasing scrutiny from Republicans, Democrats, and the media alike. Cain’s plan, in effect, would explode federal deficits while raising taxes on the poor, forcing America’s lowest income-earners to shoulder the cost of huge tax breaks for the rich.
Cain’s plan ends several of the current taxes that help fund federal government programs, including the payroll tax that finances Social Security — one of the most popular government programs there is. That would seem like a political loser, given that Americans of all political stripes oppose cuts to the program. But Sunday, Steve Forbes, a former presidential candidate and long-time proponent of the flat tax, praised Cain’s 999 plan specifically for not funding Social Security and Medicare in an editorial published in the New York Post:
The Cain plan would rid us of not only the federal income tax, but also the Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes.
For someone like Forbes, whose net worth is upwards of $430 million, Social Security and Medicare might not be a necessity. For elderly Americans with much less money, however, the programs are vital. Social Security kept 14 million seniors out of poverty in 2010, after many lost most or all of their retirement savings in the 2008 financial crisis. Since it passed in 1965, meanwhile, Medicare has increased the number of seniors with health coverage, improved life expectancy rates, and reduced poverty among the elderly.
As Congress and presidential candidates have focused on spending cuts over the last two years, Americans continue to oppose cuts to both Social Security and Medicare. Apparently, though, ensuring that those programs can’t be funded is something to be celebrated in the Republican presidential primary.