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Herman Cain: Who came up with the 999 plan?

With Herman Cain now a GOP front-runner in some polls, DCDecoder offers a four-point primer on Cain's 999 plan.

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The Washington Post’s Fact Checker Glenn Kessler looked into “999” as well, eventually giving Cain “Three Pinocchios” for saying most Americans would see their taxes decline under his plan.

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"Just like it would be wrong to claim pizza is a low-calorie meal, Cain’s description of the plan’s impact on working Americans is highly misleading," Kessler wrote.

3. Who helped him gin this thing up, anyway?

A good question. The only economic policy adviser Cain has named is a guy named Rich Lowrie (here’s his LinkedIn profile) whose economic credentials are, shall we say, limited. For one, he doesn’t have an economics degree, although Cain called him an economist during the debate Tuesday night. Second, his professional experience extends to helping run a Wells Fargo wealth management division outside of Cleveland, Ohio, and sitting on the boards of various conservative economic groups. Cain has refused to offer up the names of any other advisers.

4. What are Republicans saying about the plan?

Reaction on the right could be described as generally positive but with a host of caveats. As one might imagine, the best part of the plan, in the eyes of conservatives, is lower tax rates. The main objections include the fact that by adding a new 9 percent national sales tax, Cain’s plan gives the federal government a new revenue stream which, some argue, would inevitably lead to more government and/or more taxes.

An analysis by Tea Party group FreedomWorks put it thus:

Mr. Cain’s 999 plan is on the right track with its goal of a lower, flatter, simpler, fairer, more transparent tax system. Nine percent would be a wonderful top rate for the income tax, compared to today’s 35% top rate. And let’s face it, abolishing the payroll tax and the death tax would simply be awesome.

But adding a national retail sales tax on top of the federal income tax (even a flat tax) is a bad idea, because it creates the infrastructure for a federal-level, European-style [value-added tax, or VAT].

And if Cain’s 9% personal flat tax failed to remain flat (as happened with Ronald Reagan’s promising but ultimately failed 1986 tax reform), we would end up with the worst of both worlds: a confiscatory income tax and a job-crushing VAT.

But while there may be some qualms over the plan, there’s much greater enthusiasm for the plan’s messenger. One blogger at conservative web forum RedState notes that Cain’s ability to sell his plan to the American public, whatever its flaws, is a positive thing in and of itself.

Yes, that it is appealing doesn’t make it workable or a good idea. But it does make it an appealing idea. Which is a helluva lot better than the alternatives we have so far. You’re not going to find crowds at Romney rallies chanting “59 Points!” or even understanding what the hell is in his 160-page economic plan. (Although, a Romney rally where the crowd did chant his entire economic plan would be akin to a Buddhist funeral ceremony… hours and hours of chanting….) Perry’s economic plan is easy to understand, and has a built-in slogan… oh wait… he hasn’t released one yet. Nevermind then…

There’s a deeper point to be made here. Cain often says on the stump that his job as President will be to educate and inform the American people, because “If people understand it, they will demand it.

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