I think I speak for all of us when I say please God,* let Herman Cain win the Republican nomination for President. He is delightful. Three weeks into his campaign he noted that America needs to lighten up, and he’s among the 50% of GOP candidates who can control when they talk about Jesus. Plus, he might be the only man to make racists consider Barack Obama on his merits. After Cain got annihilated in the general, he could enjoy a beer and a chuckle at how he briefly thought he could be President of the United States. Don’t let Herman Cain become President of the United States. Already he has articulated a specific plan to wreck the government.
Cain’s 9-9-9 plan would reduce the corporate and individual income tax rates to 9%, offset by a 9% federal sales tax. That’s three nines, see. The 9-9-9 Plan is a much catchier name than the Cut Taxes On Corporations and Millionaires By 25 Points While Making Everything More Expensive Plan. It’s not quite as catchy as The Last Plan, which many analysts think it could be. Whether the revenue generated by 9-9-9 almost exactly hits our present income or falls $1 trillion short depends on your model, but the question is academic. We still have a Congress, and it’s possible some of them would not immediately assent to President Cain’s demand that, “The first fundamental, guys, is we have to throw out the tax code.” So it’s kind of a dumb idea.
But Lord, is it easy to understand. You have to remember three things, and they’re all nine. The 9-9-9 plan is like a virus that gets in your brain and forces you to think about whether it would work. It doesn’t matter that it would make rich Americans richer than they’ve ever been by “expanding the base” to the poor, or that it would impose a 9% consumption tax during a recession. Such considerations miss the plan’s singular appeal. 9-9-9 is the easiest idea to understand of 2011. If you are just getting into having ideas, 9-9-9 is the idea for you.
As the Times’s Trip Gabriel puts it, Cain “has uttered the triple digits repeatedly” for the last few weeks. It’s clear that A) Trip Gabriel is working on a Lovecraftian horror novel, and B) Cain knows he’s on to something. He’s flirted with mind-relaxing simplicity before, most notably in his early demand that no Congressional legislation be more than three pages long. Now there’s an idea for people who hate ideas. Cain’s tax plan is the conceptual equivalent of a Godfather’s pizza: much worse than a real pizza, but easy to get and everybody knows about it.
So if there is a 2012 Republican presidential debate in a bar, Cain will win. Otherwise, it’s probably going to be Mitt Romney. Herman Cain is the Tea Party guy for one Republican constituency: people who think business is awesome. In the same way that Michele Bachmann was badly thwarted by Rick Perry among people who think Jesus is awesome, Cain will never win as many business hearts as bigger, whiter Mitt Romney. He’s in book deal territory now, or maybe Fox show. Until then, he is a canary in the mine.
Much as Ron Paul provides an accurate measure of how many college Republicans have Asperger’s Syndrome, the success of Herman Cain will tell us something about the value of very simple plans. He is the man for the wall-around-Mexico set, for people who think we should nuke Iran. I feel compelled to say, while I trash his polices and those who support them, that he is also super likable. He has damn near nicknamed himself Black Walnut. Again, volunteer or do whatever you have to do to make sure people don’t elect him President, but he is the candidate I would most like to eat a bowl of ice cream with. Run, Black Walnut. Run free.