Though “9-9-9” was a catchy slogan that briefly propelled Cain to the top of the Republican field, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll indicates that it is out of favor, as voters have become more acquainted with its effects, which would greatly benefit the wealthy.
In the survey, 56 percent of all respondents and about half of the most conservative Republicans and independents expressed unfavorable impressions of the 9-9-9 plan. By comparison, respondents were about evenly divided on the idea of a flat tax; among conservative Republicans and independents, however, nearly three-quarters said they view the idea positively.
Presidential campaigns understand that economic proposals are about more than numbers and fine print. Voters look to them to get a sense of a candidate’s values and priorities.
“To me, the best economic plans are narratives,” said Columbia Business School Dean R. Glenn Hubbard, who was a top economic adviser to President George W. Bush and who is backing Romney in the 2012 race. “They tell the voters whether the candidate understands how the economy works and how they would approach it.”
If the measure of a candidate’s boldness is the array of entrenched interests he is willing to battle, none arguably would top former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr., who would eliminate every tax credit and deduction and set a three-tiered tax system of 8 percent, 14 percent and 23 percent.
Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.), a libertarian, is the most radical. He would scrap the income tax entirely, arguing that the government never had the right to impose it in the first place. He says he could balance the federal books through excise taxes, limited tariffs and by greatly shrinking the government.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), who often cites her credentials as a former Internal Revenue Service lawyer, said she would “completely abolish the tax code” by replacing it with the flat and simple tax. However, she has not produced a detailed plan showing how she would do so.
Against all of those proposals, Romney’s economic plan, released last month in a 160-page book, would take a more cautious approach.
Romney would make more incremental changes to the tax code, although he promises to ultimately simplify it and reduce rates. His plan also focuses more heavily on trade — including a threat to impose higher tariffs on China if it does not boost the value of its currency.
Romney would reduce the maximum corporate tax to 25 percent, five percentage points higher than Perry proposes. He also would eliminate taxes on interest, capital gains and dividends, but only for Americans who make less than $200,000.