Mike Kueber's Blog

September 26, 2011

Herman Cain and his 999 plan

Filed under: People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 4:54 am
Tags: , , ,

Herman Cain and his 999 plan seem to be catching on like a wildfire.  Several pundits have declared him the unofficial winner of the FOX/Google debate in Florida and he officially won the subsequent straw poll.  Rick Perry even joked during the debate that his ideal running mate would be a combination of Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich.  Methinks this buzz about Cain requires that we take a closer look.

Cain’s 999 plan is a proposal to eliminate all taxes except for:

  • Reducing the federal personal income tax from five rates (10/15/25/33/35) to a single 9% rate.
  • Reducing the federal corporate income tax rate from 35% to 9%.
  • Instituting a national sales tax of 9%.

According to Cain, his 999 plan is revenue-neutral – i.e., it will generate the same revenue as the current system, but in a simpler, fairer way that will stimulate the economy.

If you go to Cain’s website, however, you will learn that the 999 plan is merely Phase Two of Cain’s three-phrase program.  Phase One is called the Immediate Boost phase, and it consists of establishing a flat tax of 25% on personal and corporate income, while eliminating the Social Security and Capital Gains taxes.  Phase Three is titled the Fair Tax, and it consists of a 23% national sales that that would replace all other federal taxation on persons and corporations.

Mitt Romney in his No Apologies book suggested that the Fair Tax is an interesting concept, but he thinks it might be too risky because we don’t know how much it would disrupt the consumption behavior of Americans.  But Cain’s well-conceived three-phase proposal would enable us to minimize that risk by moving gradually toward a Fair Tax.

Other than his 999 plan, Cain’s most noteworthy policy provision is his embracement of the so-called Chilean model for Social Security.  The Chilean model is basically the same thing as George W. Bush’s proposal for individual, private Social Security accounts that was rejected during his administration.  Chile adopted such a system more than 30 years ago, and it has received mixed, albeit generally positive reviews.

In addition to his 999 plan and his embracement of Chilean Social Security, the most unique thing about Cain is his non-political background.  He is famously known as the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, but that was only ten years of his life, from 1986 to 1996.  That reminds me of President Obama, who is forever known as a community organizer, even though he only did that for three years between college and law school.

Cain graduated from Morehouse College with a B.S. in Mathematics in 1967 and then went to work as a civilian mathematician for the U.S. Navy, during which he earned a Master’s Degree in Computer Science from Purdue University in 1971.  After getting his Masters, he went to work as a business analyst for Coca Cola and then Pillsbury.  He left an executive suite with Pillsbury to assume regional management of 450 Burger Kings, which was a Pillsbury subsidiary.  His success with those Burger Kings resulted in a transfer to manage all of Godfather’s Pizza, a struggling Pillsbury subsidiary.  After a few successful years with Godfather’s, he and some other private investors bought the company from Pillsbury.

Cain resigned from Godfather’s in 1996 to become CEO of the National Restaurant Association, (the NRA is a trade and lobby group), with which he worked extensively as the CEO of Godfather’s, including vigorous opposition to Clinton’s proposed universal health coverage – HillaryCare.  I can’t find any explanation for Cain’s move from Godfathers to the NRA, but the move might suggest that he had become more interested in public policy than in business.

After a short stay with the NRA, Cain started a full-time career in radio broadcasting, speaking, and writing.  He also ran for President in 2000 and for the U.S. Senate from Georgia in 2004, losing in the primary.

Cain is married, with kids and grandkids, and serves as an Associate Pastor in a Baptist Church.  If all of this seems like a Horatio Alger story, that would be accurate.  As a matter of fact, Cain has received a Horatio Alger award.

But, ironically, Cain’s story darkens a bit when you introduce the subject of religion.  According to Wikipedia, he has had some trouble relating to Muslims:

  • A number of comments made by Cain regarding his attitudes towards Muslim people have caused controversy. He has stated that he was “uncomfortable” when he found that the surgeon operating on his liver and colon cancer was Muslim, later explaining “based upon the little knowledge that I have of the Muslim religion, you know, they have an objective to convert all infidels or kill them.”  Following a number of such comments, he was  asked in March 2011 if he would feel comfortable appointing a Muslim to his administration or as a Judge.  Cain said “No, I will not … There’s this creeping attempt, there’s this attempt, to gradually ease Sharia Law, and the Muslim faith into our government. It does not belong in our government.” and he went on to cite court cases in Oklahoma and New Jersey as evidence.  He was criticized for this remark by conservatives at Grover Norquist’s weekly Wednesday Gatherings, one of whom called the remark “frightening.”  Cain’s statement was also criticized as “bigotry” and “muslim bashing” from CAIR, whose spokesperson stated, “It would be laughable if it weren’t having such a negative impact on the lives of Muslim Americans.”  Cain opposed the building of an Islamic Center for a Muslim community at a site in Tennessee, claiming that it was “an infringement and an abuse of our freedom of religion” and “just another way to try to gradually sneak Sharia law into our laws.”  Defending himself against the suggestion that this would be bigotry or discrimination during an interview with Chris Wallace, he defended his position, saying, “I’m willing to take a harder look at people who might be terrorists, that’s what I’m saying.”
  • Cain has faced criticism regarding his lack of foreign policy experience and stumbled early in the campaign when answering a question regarding the Palestinian right of return as he appeared unfamiliar with the issue and staff were forced to later clarify his position.
  • In an interview with Bloomberg view, Cain argued that he is a “black American” rather than an “African American” on account of being able to trace his ancestors within the US, describing Barack Obama as “more of an international…look, he was raised in Kenya, his mother was white from Kansas and her family had an influence on him, it’s true, but his dad was Kenyan.”  Interviewer Jeffrey Goldberg pointed out that Obama had spent 4 years of his childhood abroad, and that it was in Indonesia – not Kenya, at which point Cain revised his claim.

With this mindset, I wonder how Cain will respond when Katie Couric asks him which magazines and newspapers he reads to inform his world view?  He sounds like the kind of person who would thrive on talk radio, but, like Rick Perry, I don’t think he is acceptable to the independents who will determine who our next president is.