Bartlett, Tenn. - Herman Cain lashed out at his critics Friday, accusing detractors of his 9-9-9 tax reform plan of trying to slow his newfound momentum with baseless attacks.
During his first campaign swing since surging in the polls, Cain told a tea party crowd near his birthplace of Memphis that the plan would grow the economy by five percent at minimum, and pledged to pass it in his first 90 days in office.
“Can y’all see the bull’s eye on my back?” he joked to the crowd of several hundred supporters who had gathered in a city park here to see Cain. His critics, he said, “don’t know how to respond to a real solution to a problem.”
Questions have mounted about Cain’s proposal, which would throw out the federal tax code and replace it with a nine percent flat income tax, a nine percent flat corporate tax and a nine percent national sales tax.
The name of the plan has become so synonymous with Cain’s upstart presidential bid that a supporter here held up a sign that read, “Category 999 HURRICAIN.”
Independent analysts who pored over the plan in recent days have said it would raise taxes on the poor and middle class. Fellow conservatives have warned that those nines could creep upward over time. And observers have noted that it would face an uphill battle in Congress.
Cain on Friday derided the former criticism as “Washington math.” He said that citizen pressure would prevent lawmakers from gradually raising the tax rate, which he called “sneak-a-taxes.” And the businessman said he is not afraid to promote a plan that is politically unpalatable.
“Politicians put together stuff that they think will pass,” said the former Godfather’s Pizza chief executive. “Businessmen put together things that can solve problems.”
Cain also rebutted critics who have called for him to release the names of his foreign policy and economic advisers. “They just want to know who my smart people are to attack them.”
Cain’s remarks were greeted uproariously by the crowd, which waited 45 minutes to hear him speak. Cain was held up because his flight was delayed, staff said. When he arrived, he was greeted with his new campaign bus emblazoned with his face on both sides, and by chants of “raise Cain!”
“I came here as a Romney guy, but I have to tell you I’ve never heard anyone speak so eloquently, so forcefully,” said Dwight Hargrove, 67, the former owner of a Memphis donut shop.
Hargrove was moved not only by Cain’s speech, but the candidate’s personal story of being raised by a mother who worked as a maid and a father who worked three jobs. Hargrove’s parents were sharecroppers, he said.