At last night’s Republican debate, Michele Bachmann said “If you turn 999 upside down, the devil is in the details.” It was a clever line. Problem is that when it comes to Herman Cain’s 999 plan, there are no details, because there is no plan. What there is is a slightly longer list of talking points, with something that looks like the protean stirrings of a plan sandwiched between them.
One look at the plan itself proves this. And to any readers who clicked on the link, yes, that is the entire thing. That’s not just an abbreviated talking points-oriented summary. It’s the entire plan. 1140 words, of which only 378 relate to the immediate effects of the plan, or what it consists of. The rest are devoted to bromides (“We can not spend our way to prosperity”), tactical rather than practical reasons for supporting the plan (“unite the “Flat-Taxers” with the “Fair-Taxers”) or bizarre policy non sequiturs whose connection to these specific tax rates is never explained (“launch properly structured Empowerment Zones to revitalize our inner cities”).
Other than implementing the advertised tax rates (which Cain somehow expects to be passed by the Super Committee in spite of the fact that these rates are revenue neutral at best), what does the plan do? Answer: Nothing.
In spite of the presence of the Fair Tax – allegedly a “Phase II” of the plan – the 999 plan offers no concrete steps that will be taken to avoid abuse of what critics like Bachmann and Freedomworks already fear will turn into a VAT. Moreover, its explanation for how Cain will get public opinion on his side raises multiple questions. Cain writes, “I will begin the process of educating the American people on the benefits of continuing the next step to the Fair Tax.” How? With what resources? Will taxpayer dollars involved? Is that legal?
Presumably, Cain means he’ll use the bully pulpit. Apparently the fact that this strategy failed when President Obama tried to use it to promote Obamacare or his jobs bill doesn’t register. Either way, this phase of the “plan” is at best optimistic, and at worst magical thinking.
In essence, the 999 plan is a slogan masquerading as a plan. You could quote the tax rates from it and not have missed anything…well, anything except revenue projections, a political strategy to pass it, job creation projections or methodology. When it comes to economic reform, America needs The Works, and Herman Cain is only offering crazy bread.