Herman Cain deserves credit for proposing a tax-reform plan that is specific, promotes economic growth, and has captured the imagination of conservatives nationwide. His 9-9-9 plan builds on the insight that one of the chief defects of the current tax code is its bias toward consumption over savings. But his plan’s peculiarities of design, substantive weaknesses, and political naïveté render it unworthy of conservative support.
Cain’s ultimate objective is a 30 percent national sales tax, but his interim plan is to replace the current income, payroll, and corporate tax codes with three new taxes. A 9 percent income tax would apply to a very different tax base: Capital income would go untaxed, but the exemptions that keep the basic cost of living from being taxed would disappear. A 9 percent value-added tax would be levied on corporations. And consumers would pay a 9 percent retail sales tax as well.
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