Cain’s 9-9-9 Plan Gets Grilled at CNN Debate

Isaac Brekken/AP Photo

GOP frontrunner Herman Cain’s seemingly shiny 9-9-9 Plan took a beating at Tuesday night’s debate in Las Vegas as his fellow contenders took the plan to the mat, using the first 20 minutes of the debate to zero in on the businessman’s so called “economic vision for growth and renewal.”

Since climbing to the top of his polls, Cain’s plan has come under attack across the board, from former Ronald Reagan economic advisers to Grover Norquist, president of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform. But tonight, it was the job of those vying for the Republican nomination to try and expose the plan that has helped catapult Cain forward.

Following, the debate Cain told reporters, “The higher up you are in the polls, the more they’re gonna target you and come after you.”

“I believe that the attacks I got tonight shows that they still don’t have a plan so their only strategy is to attack mine. All of the attacks that were made were erroneous. I’m not worried about it.”

Michele Bachmann, a former tax lawyer, derided Cain’s plan for being a tax plan and not a jobs plan. From Santorum to Paul, the GOP candidates rejected Cain’s popular 9-9-9 plan as too simple a plan to tackle too complex an issue. The candidates all attempted to paint 9-9-9 as well intentioned but ineffective.

Former Pennsylvania Senator, Rick Santorum said, “Herman’s well-meaning, and I love his boldness, and it’s great. But the fact of the matter is, I mean, reports are now out that 84 percent of Americans would pay more taxes under his plan. That’s the analysis.”

A recent study from the Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank, said that Cain’s 9-9-9 Plan would raise taxes on 84 percent of American households — something Herman Cain denied on his bus tour across Tennessee.

Governor Rick Perry also took a soft approach saying, “Herman, I love you, brother, but let me tell you something, you don’t need 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.

“They’re not interested in 9-9-9. What they’re interested in is flatter and fairer. At the end of the week, I’m going to be laying out a plan that clearly — I’ll bump plans with you, brother, and we’ll see who has the best idea about how you get this country working again. And one of the ways, right here in Nevada you’ve got 8-plus percent. You want nine cents on top of that, and nine cents on a new home — or 9 percent on a new home, 9 percent on your Social Security, 9 percent more? I don’t think so, Herman. It’s not going to fly.”

Cain has addressed this claim on the trail saying that his tax is a replacement tax not an added tax, saying his fellow candidates were mixing apples and oranges, something he reiterated at the debate over and over again.

“This is an example of mixing apples and oranges. The state tax is an apple. We are replacing the current tax code with oranges. So it’s not correct to mix apples and oranges,” said Cain. “What the 9 percent does is that we take out those five invisible taxes and replace it with one visible 9 percent.”

When Romney, went after the plan, Cain responded “Whether you throw out the existing code and you put in our plan, you’re still going to pay that. That’s apples and oranges.”

Romney responded, “Fine. And I’m going to be getting a bushel basket that has apples and oranges in it because I’ve got to pay both taxes and the people in Nevada don’t want to pay both taxes.”

Cain stood his ground under the intense scrutiny of his plan. “Once again, unfortunately, none of my distinguished colleagues who have attacked me up here tonight understand the plan. They’re wrong about it being a value-added tax. We simply remove the hidden taxes that are in goods and services with our plan and replace it with a single rate nine percent. I invite every family to do your own calculations with that arithmetic.”

Newt Gingrich managed to boil down Herman Cain’s campaign to one that was based on great ideas, but did little to provide real solutions, crediting the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO for bringing a serious issue to the table.

“I think that Herman Cain deserves a lot of credit. He has had the courage to go out and take a specific very big idea at the right level,” said Gingrich. “And he has us at least talking about something that matters as opposed to the junk that all too often is masquerading as politics in this country. So I think that’s important.”

But ultimately, Gingrich joined in the pile on saying, “There are much more complexities than Herman lets on. Okay. I mean, 9-9-9, when you get into details like you pay it on a new product, you don’t pay it on an old product, et cetera, there’s a lot more detail here than he lets on.”

Cain encourages the supporters to go to his website and do the math themselves. “People can do their own 9-9-9, compare it to your tax return from last year, that’s what we gonna start encouraging people to do, in fact we’re gonna put together a little 9-9-9 calculator so families can do their own, so we can get away from all of this garbage out there, talking about what it won’t do and all this kind of stuff.”

Up until recently, Cain has failed to really show the numbers behind his plan which he claims will generate $450 billion in revenue and create millions of jobs. He has repeatedly said he wouldn’t share the names of his advisors because people only want to target them in order to go after him and his 9-9-9 plan. But tonight, the campaign started to release a few names and spoke more about Fiscal Associates, Inc., the company Cain used to score his plan.

It remains to be seen if Cain’s poll numbers will remain steady as his plan continues to be examined.