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Tipsheet

Herman Cain: Flavor of the Month?

"That's why this flavor of the week is now the flavor of the month -- and it still tastes good," said Herman Cain on Monday at an American Enterprise Institute event. This was a retort to an audience question about the possibility of the Republican Party "falling out of love with him."

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But Cain feels that his rising poll numbers have staying power. He sees a difference between the party and the people: "The people have propelled my candidacy... I'm not the party favorite, but the momentum is coming from the grassroots and the people."

The event was focused on Cain's 9-9-9 plan (a 9 percent business flat tax, a 9 percent individual flat tax, and a 9 percent national sales tax). This frustrated reporters who wanted to question Cain on foreign policy and Politico's coverage of alleged sexual harassment claims against Cain. During the question and answer portion, a reporter asked two questions -- the first regarding Rick Perry's flat tax, the second regarding the accusations. The moderator intervened, citing the event's rules for subject matter. Cain agreed to abide by those regulations, and focused instead on the fiscal question.  He called Perry's plan "Flat Tax Lite" because it keeps popular tax reductions to "reduce criticism."

Shortly after the Politico question, another reporter tried to work in global policy. Cain has been criticised for lacking foreign policy experience. The reporter passed the subject-matter test by asking about the economic state of Europe and whether Cain had any recommendations. Without moderator intervention, Cain joked that America "has enough of our own problems," but he proposes free market principles and spending cuts as the salve to Europe's ailments.

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Cain's remarks on his 9-9-9 plan included many of his usual arguments, that it establishes fairness among taxpayers and simplifies the tax system. But he did make it abundantly clear that he has no intention of changing the controversial sales tax component of his plan. Ultimately, he said he would like a system based on a consumption tax, much like the fair tax: "With a 100 percent consumption tax we'll see a dramatic difference in people's behavior, and that's what's going to supercharge the economy." For now, consumption is just one of the three 9 percent taxes in his plan.

Cain commented that his opponents have criticized the plan for being a VAT (value added tax). But he contends that the current system has "invisible vats built in." He illustrated the progress of a good grown on a farm: the farmer is taxed on his profits, so is the baker, truck driver transporting the good and the grocery store that sells it. Ultimately, he asserts, consumers pay those taxes in the final price of the item. 9-9-9 replaces that "30-40 percent invisible tax" with a transparent 9 percent tax.

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The VAT accusation was prevalent in the question and answer period, and Cain continually responded with variations of "It doesn't matter what you call it." He remarked that this VAT accusation a scare tactic to undermine his plan.

Herman Cain's rise in popularity has been closely trailed by thorough criticism. Only time will tell if he's more than the "flavor of the month."

This post was written by Mary Crookston.

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