By Jason McLure
LITTLETON, New Hampshire (Reuters) - Herman Cain has soared to the top of the Republican presidential polls by touting his 9-9-9 tax plan as the solution to everything from unemployment to deflated housing prices.
Now, the similarity of the plan to one used in a version of hit video game SimCity is drawing cheers from Redwood City, Calif., videogame maker Electronic Arts.
SimCity4, released in 2003 by Electronic Arts, allows players to create and control virtual societies complete with playgrounds, stadiums and subways, and then destroy them by ordering up an earthquake or other natural disaster.
As first reported by HuffingtonPost, the default tax plan for the game hits virtual citizens with three flat taxes of 9 percent, like Cain's proposal.
"As game designers we tried to keep taxes as a simple function of running your virtual city so the player can focus on having fun," Kip Katserelis, a producer of the game for Electronic Arts' Maxis unit, told Reuters.
Lowering taxes in the game increases a player's approval rating, while raising them brings in revenue needed "to fend off typical SimCity municipal issues like crime, pollution and giant lizard attacks," he said.
Cain has proposed scrapping the federal tax system and instituting a 9 percent national sales tax, 9 percent income tax and 9 percent tax on business profits.
The video game plan sets a 9 percent housing tax, 9 percent commercial tax and 9 percent tax on factories.
Mocked at last week's Republican debate by rival Jon Huntsman as the price of a pizza and compared by Rep. Michele Bachmann to an upside-down version of the numerology representing Satan, the origin and ramifications of 9-9-9 plan have been the matter of debate.
Cain has said the idea for his proposal came from Rich Lowrie, an employee of a branch of Wells Fargo Advisors near Cleveland. Lowrie is the only economic adviser that Cain has identified.
A message to Lowrie's Wells Fargo e-mail address generated a response from a co-worker, directing queries to the Cain campaign.
"Rich serves as a volunteer on Mr. Cain's campaign, and does so on his own behalf using his own time and his own resources," the co-worker wrote.
Cain's campaign did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Electronic Arts, which has sold more than 100 million units of the Sims franchise, is taking a tongue-in-cheek approach to the game's association with Cain's meteoric rise.
"The team here is glad that he chose to build a platform off of our tax system, but there are so many other serious issues in SimCity that I would love to see a politician construct a game around," said Katsarelis.
"Is anyone looking at an alien invasion plan?
(Reporting by Jason McLure, editing by Ros Krasny)
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