Simplicity is the foundation of many a great sales pitch: “$5 foot longs.” “Jobs, jobs, jobs.” “99 cents tacos on Taco Tuesday.” “Buck beer night.” Pitches that state their value proposition concisely, specifically, and memorably are powerful in both the retail and political marketplace. And at first blush, Herman Cain, the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO, looks to have himself an awesome presidential pitch strategy in “9-9-9.”
Under Cain’s “9-9-9” proposal, a big chunk of the federal tax code would be replaced with a flat 9% federal income tax, a new 9% federal sales tax and a 9% federal corporate tax. Like many great sales pitches, Herman’s husksterism is elegantly simple, digestible, understandable, symetrical and memorable. Moreover, “9-9-9” has the all the appeal of an IED planted alongside the IRS headquarters, a popular proposition among just about all taxpayers, particularly GOP activists.
Politically speaking, “9-9-9” just flat out sells. Almost overnight, it has made Cain — who also has swell ideas about electrocuting Mexicans and banning government service based on religious affiliation — a GOP presidential front-runner.
But at some point, even wildly popular political pitches get dissected by journalists and opponents. When that happens, I’m not convinced that the Niner Designer will survive the economic vivisection.
Tax experts such as a former chief-of-staff of the non-partisan congressional Joint Tax Committee, are now finding that “9-9-9” represents a tax increase for every household earning under $120,000/year. A family of four earning about $90,000/year would pay about $5,000 more annually. (In Cain currency, that’s roughly 417 one-topping medium-sized pizzas per year.) At the same time, under “9-9-9,” billiaonaire Warren Buffet last year would have paid no income tax.
In fact, a President Cain with a “9-9-9” in place would probably redistribute more of old Joe the Plumber’s wealth than any President in American history. The trickle down economics imbedded in Cain’s “9-9-9” might make even old Arthur Laffer blush.
So sure, simple sells, and right now simplicity is raising Cain. But will it sell long enough to make Citizen Cain our next President? Nein, nein, nein.