It's no surprise that after months of issue-free wrangling over who the GOP nominee for president will be, the first actual big idea to emerge is gaining traction. At one recent rally, when Herman Cain mentioned his “9-9-9” plan, the crowd finished the last two 9s with one rousing voice. They seemed to really like it.
It’s been fun to watch TV pundits put “GOP frontrunner” and “former pizza executive” in the same sentence, but Cain has hit on a massive piece of common ground: America wants a fair tax structure. He proposes a kind of flat tax — a 9 percent income tax, a 9 percent national sales tax and a 9 percent corporate tax.
As Republicans continue their frenetic speed-dating, Cain is clearly the suitor of the month; his jokes about electrocuting the less fortunate among the human species will bring him back to “let’s-just-be-friends” status soon enough.
Still, you have to hand it to him for advocating something — even if it’s not entirely original.
Cain was a part of Steve Forbes’ presidential campaign in 1996, when the flat tax idea turned out to be a flat tire on the campaign trail. And more recently, people have noticed that Cain’s 9-9-9 plan seems a lot like the default tax structure of another government — of SimCity, the popular videogame in which you create prosperity by balancing a variety of public needs.
It’s comforting to hear Cain say he didn’t borrow his entire campaign message from a videogame. Still, the beauty of SimCity is that the paying-for-it part of that virtual government is simple to understand and fair to everyone. And if you lose balance, with taxes too high or low, you invite urban decay or rioting in the streets. (Hey, we almost have that now, with Tea Party rallies and Occupy Wall Street.)
Every American, from the angry retiree wanting the government to keep its hands off her Medicare to the goateed hipster firing off tweets about his poverty on a $300 iPhone, can agree on a fairer tax system. And we love getting something great for 9-9-9 — like, say, a pizza, or better government. The only ones who won’t like it are those corporations that are paying zero to support the nation that enables their success.
If you do the math, Cain’s plan favors the rich too much, but if we can work out the specifics in a way that pays the bills, spreads the costs out fairly, and is as easy to understand as a videogame, I’d be for it.
Ted S. McGregor Jr. is the Editor and Publisher of The Inlander.