Former Businessman Emerges as Republican Contender

A dark horse in the Republican primary contest emerges as a Tea Party favorite.

Herman Cain, a former businessman and Republican presidential hopeful, speaks in Des Moines, Iowa, March 23
Herman Cain, a former businessman and Republican presidential hopeful, speaks in Des Moines, Iowa, March 23 (Gage Skidmore)

Former businessman Herman Cain, a dark horse in the Republican primary race for the presidential nomination, emerged as a credible contender this week when he finished first in a straw poll among conservative activists in Florida, ahead of frontrunners Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.

Also once a radio talk show host and Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank chairman, Cain is a Tea Party favorite who favors deep limited government and comprehensive tax reform to boost economic growth.

The candidate touts a “9-9-9” plan for tax reform that would reduce the corporate and personal income tax rates to 9 percent and establish a 9 percent nationwide sales tax. Capital gains, estate and payroll taxes would be eliminated under his proposal while America’s business tax would instantly rank among the lowest in the developed world compared to the high 35 percent corporate rate it has now.

On ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Cain claimed that for a median income family, his plan would reduce the tax burden by $2,000 a year. Analysts with the Christian Science Monitor determined that for incomes under $20,000, the effective tax burden would rise from 13 to 17 percent. Cain has disputed that, pointing out that low-income families could avoid paying high sales taxes by purchasing used products which wouldn’t be taxed at all.

“The objective,” he explained, “was grow the base and make the tax code fairer for everybody. It levels the playing field,” he said on Fox News Sunday. “It gets rid of all the loopholes.”

But the most interesting is, it gets the government out of the business of trying to pick winners and losers and trying to decide what’s regressive and what’s not regressive.

Initially, Cain’s tax plan should raise approximately the same amount that is collected in federal taxes now. “But when businesses get some certainty that that’s going to be around for a while, then this economy is going to start to grow,” he predicted on Friday when he appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Asked to give his thoughts on the two Republican frontrunners for the nomination, Cain described Rick Perry as a “good governor” and joked that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney had “good hair.” Earlier in the week, he had told CNN that he could not support a Perry candidacy because of the Texan’s unwillingness to secure the American-Mexican border with a fence.

Perry has dismissed the notion of building such a barrier, otherwise popular with conservative voters, as unrealistic. “The fact is, it’s 1,200 miles from Brownsville to El Paso,” he told New Hampshire voters in early September. “How long you think it would take to build that? And then if you build a thirty foot wall from El Paso to Brownsville, the 35 foot ladder business gets real good.”