But looking to rebut criticism that his “9-9-9” tax plan would raise taxes on poor and middle-income Americans, Cain on Friday delivered a speech here that sounded very much like a traditional politician. The former Godfather’s Pizza executive offered new details on his tax plan that he says would reduce taxes both for people who are poor and businesses that invest in low-income areas like Detroit.
And he strongly defended his own candidacy and credentials.
“People have asked me how did you come up with this (the tax plan) ,” Cain said, standing in a park in front of a now-closed Amtrak station in this city that has become a symbol of urban decay. “Some people think there’s just pepperoni between these ears, but I used to work doing econometric analyses.”
The central plank of Cain’s candidacy is a revision of the tax code which would replace the current, complicated system with three separate nine percent taxes, one on sales, another on income, and a third on businesses.
But an analysis by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank, showed that under the “9-9-9” tax reform plan, 84 percent of American households would see their taxes rise, including some huge increases for people who make less $50,000. Cain has long rejected such criticisms, saying his plan includes “opportunity zones,” which he formally discussed for the first time on Friday.
Under Cain’s plan, the federal government would designate for exemption from the 9-9-9 plan special areas with high unemployment and poverty. In these areas, businesses could deduct their entire payroll from their income subject that would normally be subject to the business tax. People who live or work in these zones would also get tax benefits, although Cain did not detail them.
And to address the criticism he is raising taxes on the poor, Cain would exempt people all over the country who are at or below the federal poverty line (about $22,000 for a family of four) from the tax on income.
But these new details may not blunt the criticism coming from Democrats and Republicans. Although the Tax Policy Center has not yet done an analysis that includes the opportunity zones, millions of Americans would still likely face a tax increase under Cain’s proposals. For families who make more than $22,000, Cain would eliminate many of the current tax benefits they get under current law and require them to pay a nine percent tax on their incomes and purchases.
And while Cain said the opportunity zones would create jobs in cities across the country and help the poor, his proposals were so vague it would be difficult to measure their actual impact. Cain did not define the exact criteria under which these zones would be designated, how many would be created, how large they would be and how much taxes would be reduced in them for individuals who live or work inside them.