Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Herman Cain's 9-9-9 Plan Explained

It's no secret that I am a big supporter of Herman Cain.  If someone were to ask who I was endorsing, I would say Mr. Cain and there are a number of reasons for that.  I think he is the most qualified candidate in the room to fix the economy, get us out of debt and lead us in the right direction.  Fellow blogger Ted Belman over at Israpundit lays out Cain's impressive resume of accomplishments.  To put it simply, he has the educational pedigree of Obama (a Masters in Comp. Sci), better business experience than Romney, the family background of Santorum, the TEA Party fire of Bachmann and dare I say it the gall to say what he means that Ron Paul has!  What he DOESN'T have, are the chains of a lifetime of politics dragging him down.  He doesn't have the baggage of  being a politician.  He's been a citizen, a problem solver, a military man and yes, he's been a rocket scientist!  So while it doesn't take a rocket scientist to solve our problems, I'd feel better having someone who is one working on the solutions!

With that said, Cain's often attacked over his controversial 9-9-9 plan by people who either don't understand it or are misrepresenting it for political gain.  While I don't have the credentials to pretend I know everything, this plan is one that I feel comfortable speaking about because it's just that simple.  For many years now, our government has increasingly tried to make things more complicated than they are in an effort to get us to turn away and "leave it to them to deal with".  The fact is that it's really NOT that complicated.  The economy of the nation is no different than the economy at home.  They've over time convinced us that deficit spending is OK, that we don't need to even have a budget and that our nations credit would never be questioned.  Well that wall of straw came crashing down when America lost her AAA rating with S&P.  While the politicians will demonize S&P for their downgrade, the real fault lies with those politicians who have run up $18 Trillion in debt, treated our Constitution like a wet rag and played fast and loose with the rules.  Cain's plan is not a political plan, but a practical business solution to the problem.  He started by identifying the problem, which we will do below.

In our homes, if the bills come up off and we owe more than we take in, maybe we get away with that for a month or two but eventually the bills come due.  It's no different for government, no matter what they say, the rules of physics, mathematics and accounting are the same.  At home, when you see debt you look for ways to pay it off, either you cut down on spending to even it out or you have to find a way to make more money, either with a second job, a raise or some other increase in "revenue".  For government, "revenue" (what we call "income" at home) is taxes and fees that citizens are charged to ensure that the bills are met.  Government has to take in enough to provide a benefit to the people and cover the cost of the projects.  What's happened over time is that as government has convinced us that deficit spending (a.k.a. running up credit card debt) is OK, we've added another cost to the list, interest.  So now, government has to spend enough to provide a benefit, cover costs AND pay interest on the debt.  Their answer?  Borrow more money.  It's like at home, instead of cutting back on spending or picking up that part time job, you went out and got another credit card with a higher limit.  When it gets really bad, they authorize the Fed to print more money (which we would go to prison for) which really is just borrowing from one hand to pay another, a little like using your rent payment to pay your electric bill.  The rent will still come due, you've just kicked the can down the road except when you print MORE money, you decrease the value of it and so you need more of it to pay your bills.  Fast forward a little and what you have is the equivalent of the government maxing out credit cards at all of the nations banks, the major international banks, local credit unions and now looking for even MORE.  If it sounds insane, it is.  This is what the government has done behind our backs and NOW, when their scheme is finally exposed, they look at the banks (credit card lenders) and say "Why did you give us all this MONEY!?" or they look at big business (which eventually becomes small businesses) and say "HEY!  You're stealing from us because you have money and we need money!"(like demanding a raise from your boss because you're overspending at home).  One day they will look at all of us as taxpayers and demand a raise.  So we know the problem, spending, debt and an inability to make the tough choice due to moral and ethical bankruptcy.  Why is 9-9-9 such a great solution?

The genius is in the simplicity.  The current tax code is more than 60,000 pages of loopholes, legalese and special interest giveaways that confuse, confound and distract from the fact that there are a dozen major federal taxes not to mention the fees charged to people and businesses as a result of our regulatory climate. Cain's plan doesn't tinker around the edges of the code, delete a few loopholes or monkey around with the language.  It throws the old system out (and good riddance!) and replaces it with 3 simple taxes for us to follow.  No more chasing the other hand and looking for the many hands.  It's divided up into 3 parts, a corporate tax of 9% which lowers our current corporate tax from the highest in the world at 35% down to one of the lowest in the world and which will stimulate growth (more on this tax later); an income tax of 9% (currently those making between $0 and $8,500 are taxed at 10% so EVEN those Americans get a tax cut); and finally a 9% national sales tax (this seems to give people the most heartburn but as I'll explain, this is actually far closer to the principles of America's founding than the income tax is).  That's it folks, all other taxes go away, no Capital Gains taxes, dividend taxes, death taxes, payroll taxes, medicare taxes, social security taxes, zip,zilch NADA.  It's GONE!  And we are left with just 3 taxes to keep an eye on.  So let's look at those taxes and how they compare to the current system.

9% Corporate Tax
As I mentioned above, America's corporate tax rate is 35% which makes it the highest in the world.  This is a tax put on businesses of a certain size that basically allows them to do business in America.  It's also the main factor behind these corporations "shipping jobs overseas" (well this and regulations like Obamacare...but I digress) and putting Americans out of work.  So next time Barack Obama starts yapping about the evil corporations, ask him why the country taxes them so high as compared to the rest of the world and what he would do if he were running that business.  Another thing we know about corporate taxes is that they are "regressive" and passed along to consumers in the price of goods and services.  This is a word you'll hear Ron Paul supporters and the left use a lot to frighten the poor (we'll cover regressive taxes later when we talk about the national sales tax).  So we know that 35% corporate tax gets pushed through on the price of everything you buy, which means there is an automatic 35% markup in pretty much everything you buy.  Cain's plan slashes that tax rate from 35% down to 9% which will make it one of the worlds lowest rates and encourage businesses to return to America and employ American workers.  That will strengthen the economy, widen the tax base, put more people back to work and generally create MORE revenue and more prosperity.  It will also lower the cost of goods, no longer will there be a 35% markup on every product, it will be reduced to 9% which will make everything you buy cheaper and lower the threshold for poverty.  These are improvements we can all get behind.

9% National Sales Tax
Now let's talk about he boogieman in the room, the National Sales Tax.  As I said above, the far left AND the far right, the Obama supporters and the Ron Paul supporters are already running around calling this a "regressive tax".  Basically, a regressive tax is one that affects the poor more than the rich and it's usually used to discourage sales taxes.  The idea is that the poor spend a higher percentage of their income on necessities than the rich do.  Perhaps this is true on paper BUT in reality the rich spend far MORE in terms of dollars (and often percentage as well) on products than the poor do.  The rich buy bigger and more expensive houses, cars, boats, etc.  They often spend more on their clothes, eat more expensive food and require more (and higher costing) utilities than the poor.  With that said, keep in mind that the slashing of the corporate tax will also drive down the PRICE of goods and stretch American dollars that much farther.  Now, a national sales tax is a scary proposition, especially with a Congress like we have.  With that said, almost every state in the nation has a state sales tax and have since the beginning of the country so it can't be too bad for the poor or no one would live in a state with a sales tax!  The reality is that the corporate taxes DO get passed on but really a sales tax is fair, not regressive.  It allows each of us to contribute to our nation's future and with the boost to the economy that the corporate tax reduction would grant, the impact would be far less than it might be if say they were to institute it now with no other changes.    Given the savings of all the other taxes that are being dropped completely, this works out in almost every ones favor.  In fact, without loopholes, the only people who might be hurt by this are government and the corporations who rely on loopholes to dodge their tax burden today.

1.) Isn't this just a tax increase? - The answer is no.  This is not a tax increase.  Let's do some simple calculations.  As we discussed, you pay a 35% tax on everything you buy today PLUS your income tax of at least 10% (I know that SOME people pay 0 tax but those are anomalies easily dealt with) so your total tax burden is a minimum of 45% of your total income and expenses.  Under Cain's plan, with the 9% sales tax, 9% income tax and 9% corporate tax, your total tax burden is just 27% which results in at least a net 18% cut for even the lowest paid Americans.
2.) Won't the politicians just increase the taxes from say 9-9-9 to 15-15-15 and drive our burden up? - The answer is maybe.  See, the reason our taxes are so high today is because we have allowed them to get out of control and take more and more and spend more and more without holding them accountable.  Our government is not designed to run on auto pilot.  We MUST be vigilant and while that requires work on our part, the upside is that WE have the power and control to get them OUT of office.  So theoretically, yes they could increase the taxes but with only three to look at, it would be hard to hide an increase and protections in Cain's plan make it harder.  #1 Since this is Cain's plan, he would be President and thus would have to sign any increases.  Veto anyone?  #2 It requires 2/3 majority in both houses to pass and as we've seen in 2011, you try herding these cats to do anything by 2/3rds majority!
3.) How will the poor be protected? - Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry all brought this up during the last CNN debate and quite honestly I think Cain missed an opportunity here.  He talked about the fact that there is no sales tax on used goods and since poor people buy more used goods than new goods (cars, houses, etc.) there is less opportunity for those folks to pay the sales tax.  He also talked about the Empowerment zones which will be areas in which his plan would focus to rebuild struggling communities.  I'm thinking about places like Detroit and other such places devastated throughout the years.  What he missed hitting on was the simplest face of all.  His plan will drive DOWN the price of goods DRAMATICALLY.  Think about this a second, the difference in the cost of an item under his plan in terms of the corporate tax is this, under the current system an item worth $100 ends up being marked up 35% ($35 for every $100) and the total cost to the consumer is $135.  Under Cain's plan, the markup drops to 9% making that same $100 item cost $109.  That's a savings of $16 in this example.  The results are even better in almost every case, when you factor in all of the current taxes vs. Cain's whole plan.
4.) Will this affect Social Security/Medicare revenues? - No, these revenues will be collected from the pool created by the 9-9-9 plan so the only difference will be that they are not going to be separate taxes.  Also, Herman would lock those funds back up and make sure Congress stops spending them on wars, roads and welfare. 
5.) How will this affect underground consumer markets? - It will bring underground markets back into the tax fold.  How?  Consider this, today, an illegal immigrant worker is paid under the table where they pay no taxes on the income.  They can then go to a state with no sales tax and buy a product off the shelf only paying the 35% markup meanwhile, you and I pay10% percent on income, then the additional 35% markup.  Under Cain's plan, the incentive for companies to hire illegal workers under the table is reduced and these illegal workers are then paying into the national tax system via the national sales tax.
6.) What about states who don't have a sales tax like New Hampshire and Delaware? - This is another question that came up in the debate that I think ALL of the other candidates are disingenuous about.  #1 - Cain is right when he says that comparing the national sales tax to the state tax is like comparing apples to oranges.  They are entirely different things and state taxes will ALWAYS exist.  They will exist with the current plan OR with a new plan and so there is no reason to count them.  With the national sales tax or without it, Delaware for instance, will not show a state sales tax on the receipt but Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey all will.  The price of products will STILL be lower.  In fact, there is some talk about not itemizing the national sales tax on the receipt but that will be fleshed out as we go along.
7.) How come no one else has thought of this if it's such a good idea? -These are not necessarily brand new ideas but what Herman has that the others don't is a a lack of political fear.  He is not, as I said earlier, shackled to politics like the others.  He's a business man and a problem solver and he designs programs to solve problems.  9-9-9 is not a perfect end solution and Herman freely admits that he wants to transition to a Fair Tax system, eliminate the corporate and income taxes all together and get America's engine humming again.  This is a stepping stone that takes the best elements from the Flat Tax, the Fair Tax and corporate taxes  (if there are any) and rolls them together in a transitional ball.
8) Can this pass the Congress? - The answer is yes.  Such sweeping changes to the current system have met with opposition from both sides yes, but there is enough support on the right and among moderates that an election mandate would allow Cain's plan some traction.  That's not to say that he would force it through or that he would need a super-majority to pass it the way Obama did to pass his healthcare bill (but it wouldn't hurt to swing the balance of power to the GOP!) but rather that he would be able to present it.  Sure the plan will be argued, debated and potentially modified but the upside to that, with Herman Cain in the White House, if it doesn't make sense, he ain't signing it!  And, if we don't like it, we throw the bums out and move on!

I know this is long and so I won't take up anymore time.  If I haven't convinced you by now, I'm not sure what else I can do BUT if you have a question, drop a comment and I'll get back to you.
10/20/2011 - My good friend Charlie Copeland, who is widely considered one of the smartest guys in Delaware, looks at the 9-9-9 plan from the perspective of economic growth and the drop in prices as a result of the reduced costs on business.

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