The man with the very simple plan

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.



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  1. From the NYTimes article:

    “Their plan has drawn fire from both right and left. Conservatives are wary of a national sales tax, concerned that it would create another, easily increased method of taxation. Among the critics are The Wall Street Journal editorial page and Bruce Bartlett, an official in the Reagan and first Bush administrations, who contributes to the Economix blog for The New York Times.

    Critics, especially liberals, say the plan offers a huge tax break for the wealthy while imposing a steep, regressive new sales tax on the middle-class and working poor, with everyday items like milk and bread being subject to a 9 percent tax. In Tuesday’s debate, defending his own 59-point economic plan, Mr. Romney took aim at Mr. Cain’s: “Simple answers are always very helpful, but oftentimes inadequate.””

    How come journalists are allowed to throw unsourced statements about conservatives and liberals around? Alarms would go off in our heads if scientists or Christians were substituted. “_All_ scientists?” “Which Christians exactly? There are a lot of them about.” You may as well us Elves and Dwarves since those terms are based more in myth or useful fiction than reality. Trip Gabriel: Yeah, I just polled The Critics, and they are mostly liberals saying…”

    That Trip Gabriel, always a wily one.

  2. I assume Cain performed a comprehensive analysis of the federal revenue system, and did indeed arrive at 9-9-9 as the optimal solution to maximize economic output while still providing enough income to balance the budget eventually. I mean, 9-9-10 is obviously a little too much taxation, as is 10-9-9 or 9-9.5-10.

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