While former Gov. Mitt Romney dodged hits from his GOP 2012 rivals in Tuesday night's Bloomberg/Washington Post Republican debate, Herman Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan stole the show. Cain had the chance to plug the plan multiple times throughout the evening, as the debate rules dictated that anytime a candidate was mentioned by another participant, he or she had 30 seconds for a rebuttal. At one point, moderator Charlie Rose told former Sen. Rick Santorum, "So if you keep mentioning '9-9-9' and Herman Cain, I'm going to have to go back to him every other question."
Cain recently experienced a jump from fringe candidate to the top tier, now challenging Romney, a longtime frontrunner, in the polls. Thus, it is not surprising that other GOP 2012 hopefuls used the debate as an opportunity to attack Cain and his 9-9-9 plan. Former Gov. Jon Huntsman joked, "I think it's a catchy phrase. In fact, I thought it was the price of a pizza when I first heard about it. "
The plan would wipe away the current federal tax code and replace it with three flat taxes: a personal income tax, a corporate business tax, and a national sales tax, all at a 9 percent rate. Cain repeatedly defended it as a "bold" plan that Congress would have no choice but it pass as it would be embraced by the American people. He also said that a "number of other well-recognized economists" helped him formulate the plan and that it would bring in the same revenue as the current tax code. According to Cain, the plan would also revive the economy, arguing that "it starts with three simple economic driving principles: production drives the economy, risk-taking drives growth, and we need sound money, measurements must be dependable."
But the other candidates would not let Cain's plan off easy. Bachmann criticized 9-9-9 because a national sales tax would open a new "pipeline" for Congress to bring in revenue. "When you take the 9-9-9 plan and you turn it upside down, I think the devil is in the details." Santorum seconded her concerns, "How many people believe that we'll keep the income tax at 9 percent? Anybody?" Even the moderator Julianna Goldman pressed Cain on 9-9-9, asking, "But then explain why under your plan all Americans should be paying more for milk, for a loaf of bread, and beer?" Independent analysts and commentators have also warned that despite Cain's assertions to the contrary, the plan is not revenue neutral and would in fact worsen the budget deficit; others have warned that it would be a massive tax increase on the poor while cutting taxes for the wealthy.
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