Rick Perry flat tax plan: Don't expect a 9-9-9 retread

Rick Perry says his flat tax plan is a major part of his broad prescription to revive the economy and create jobs – a move he hopes will also revive his campaign.

Isaac Brekken/AP
Republican presidential candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, runs prior to delivering a keynote address during the Western Republican Leadership Conference, Wednesday, Oct. 19, in Las Vegas. Perry said he'll be announcing details of a flat tax plan next week.

Fresh off Tuesday night’s rollicking GOP presidential debate, Rick Perry says he’ll soon be unveiling a flat tax proposal.

"It starts with … scrapping the three million words of the current tax code, starting over with something simple: a flat tax," the Texas governor told GOP activists at the Western Republican Leadership Conference in Las Vegas Wednesday.

Like businessman Herman Cain, whose 9-9-9 plan came under fire at Tuesday's debate, Mr. Perry wants to do away with the current tax system. Although Perry won’t reveal the details until a speech scheduled for next week in South Carolina, the similarities likely end there.

“Herman, I love you, brother, but let me tell you something: You don’t have to have a big analysis to figure this thing out. Go to New Hampshire, where they don’t have a sales tax, and you’re fixing to give them one,” Perry told Mr. Cain during the debate. “They’re not interested in 9-9-9. What they’re interested in is flatter and fairer."

Perry added, "I’ll bump plans with you, brother – and we’ll see who has the best idea about how you get this country working again.”

(The Twitterverse, by the way, burbled with questions Wednesday about why Perry twice referred to Cain, who is African American, as “brother.” Had it anything to do with Perry’s recent problem over his family’s hunting camp once having a racist name?)

It’s expected that Perry’s flat tax plan will be a major part of his broad plan to revive the economy and create jobs. The New York Times reports that Steve Forbes, who ran for president in 1996 and 2000 on a pledge of implementing a single flat tax on income, has recently joined Perry’s campaign as an adviser.

Perry told the Republican gathering Wednesday that he “will put forward a plan that balances the budget,” and he pledged to “barnstorm all 50 states to generate support for a balanced-budget amendment that will require the necessary tough choices year after year.”

Among other traditionally conservative talking points, Perry promised “a serious commitment to spending cuts,” said he would aggressively pursue a “Made in America” energy policy that goes after “untapped supplies of natural gas, oil and coal,” and vowed to “put a halt to job-killing EPA rules that are grinding our economy to a halt.” He also promised to ban congressional earmarks.

In principle, a flat tax would replace today’s graduated tax rates that increase with income with a single rate for all income levels. Critics consider it regressive and harmful to those of lesser means.

According to a recent analysis by the Tax Policy Center, Cain’s 9-9-9 plan (a flat 9 percent income tax, a 9 percent sales tax, and a 9 percent tax on business income) would raise taxes on 84 percent of American households while cutting taxes for the “millionaires and billionaires” President Obama says can afford to pay more.

Notable among the debate fireworks Tuesday night were the sharp exchanges between Perry and party establishment favorite Mitt Romney.

In his speech Wednesday, Perry did not mention Romney by name, but he alluded to a difference he wants to portray.

“I am not the candidate of the establishment,” he said. “You won’t hear a lot of shape-shifting nuance from me.”

Perry also used his flat tax teaser to take a poke at Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who admitted during his 2009 confirmation hearings that he had been late in filing his income tax returns.

“I want to make the tax code so simple that even Timothy Geithner can file his taxes on time,” Perry said.

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