Of all the candidates to emerge from the pack in this volatile election cycle, Cain has been the most unlikely. His precarious position at the top of the field was made all the more so by a new study issued Tuesday by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center on his 9-9-9 plan.
He has said that the plan would reduce taxes for most Americans, but the center said otherwise.
According to the analysis, Cain’s proposal would lower taxes for 95 percent of the nation’s millionaires an average of $487,000. The vast majority of taxpayers earning less than $100,000 would bear a tax increase.
Asked about the review of his plan — which would replace the current tax system with a 9 percent levy on individual income, corporate earnings and purchases — Cain dismissed it as a “knee-jerk reaction” that was refuted by his campaign’s calculations.
“The reason that my plan — the reason that our plan is being attacked so much is because lobbyists, accountants, politicians, they don’t want to throw out the current tax code and put in something that’s simple and fair,” Cain said.
But his rivals weren’t buying it.
“You don’t need to have a big analysis to figure this thing out,” Perry said. “Go to New Hampshire, where they don’t have a sales tax and you’re fixing to give them one.”
The debate came at a time when the party is trying to sort out its own identity amid the tension between its establishment wing and the insurgent forces represented by the tea party movement. Romney has been unable to consolidate the two, in part because of a relatively moderate history that includes enacting a health-care system in Massachusetts that strongly resembles Obama’s new national law.
“Your plan was the basis for Obamacare,” Santorum told Romney.
The question of whether Romney’s plan was a model for Obama’s health-care overhaul quickly deteriorated into a testy exchange over the origin of the landmark legislation.
It started when Gingrich declared that the Massachusetts plan called for far more government involvement in the provision of health care than Romney had claimed. But Romney countered that Gingrich himself, along with the conservative Heritage Foundation, had been among those who supported the idea of an individual mandate before Romney pushed it in his state.
“That is not true,” Gingrich interrupted — only to acknowledge, a moment later, that he had, in fact, supported the individual mandate.
Romney has sought throughout the campaign to bolster his bona fides with the right. However, Perry was clearly aiming to stir those doubts about his rival as he introduced himself to the debate audience as “an authentic conservative, not a conservative of convenience.”
Perry was asked if he would repudiate the remarks of the Rev. Robert Jeffress, who called Romney’s religion, Mormonism, a cult after introducing Perry at the Values Voter Summit in Washington earlier this month. Perry said he disagreed with Jeffress’s views, but Romney added that it was something else Jeffress had said that was most disturbing to him — that to choose a president, voters must first “inspect his religion.”
“It was that principle, Governor, that I wanted you to be able to say, ‘No, no, that’s wrong, Reverend Jeffress,’ ” Romney said.
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