ThinkProgress filed this report from the Western Republican Leadership Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The centerpiece of Herman Cain’s economic agenda, the 999 Plan, has vaulted the former pizza executive to the top of the Republican presidential field. Multiple independent analyses of the plan, however, have shown that it will significantly increase taxes on the poor and middle class — 84 percent of households, according to the Tax Policy Center — while giving humongous tax breaks to the wealthiest one percent.
Cain, hammered by economists, budget wonks, and even his Republican opponents for the proposing such a regressive tax plan, told the Western Republican Leadership Conference on Wednesday that his campaign had come up with a “fix” to make 999 more equitable, but he “just [hasn’t] told the public and my opponents about it yet.”
CAIN: The other thing that they try to say — “well it’s going to be regressive on the poor.” No it’s not. We anticipated that attack, but I didn’t tell them how I was going to fix it yet. I wanted to wait until I get attacked on that for a while. We already have a plan for that. But I wanted to see if they would come at that. They thought it was going to be dead in the water. We are a compassionate nation. We do want to help those that are doing all they can to help themselves, but they might need a little bit of help. So we’re not going to throw the people at the poverty level under the bus. No, we’re not going to do that. But we’ve already made provisions for that, but I just haven’t told the public and my opponents about it yet.
As it stands currently, Cain’s 999 plan is extraordinarily regressive, resulting in tax increases for everyone making less than $200,000. Millionaires would be far-and-away the biggest beneficiaries under Cain’s plan. And Cain’s remarks Wednesday did little to combat the impression that his campaign is simply making up the plan’s details as they go along. In fact, he openly admitted that 999 was being modified in the face of persistent criticisms.
Cain’s decision to keep the “fix” a secret for the time being is becoming a recurring theme for his campaign. Cain has repeatedly discussed consulting advisors on various issues, but would not reveal their identities. Many of his staffers’ names have been kept secret. He said he has already identified two people who he could nominate to head the Federal Reserve, but can’t say who they are. And in a move reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s secret plan to end the Vietnam War, even Cain’s energy plan has been kept under wraps because he “doesn’t want to tip anybody off.”
Given the inherently regressive nature of Cain’s tax proposal, nothing short of a massive “fix” would prevent the 999 plan from, in the former pizza executive’s words, “throw[ing] the people at the poverty level under the bus.”