Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain acknowledged Sunday that some Americans would see a tax increase under his “9-9-9” plan, but he insisted that “most people will pay less” under his proposal to overhaul the country’s tax code.
Surging in national polls, the pizza magnate who casts himself as an outsider found himself on the defensive over his tax plan during a 25-minute appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
He backtracked on incendiary remarks at campaign stops Saturday in Tennessee, where he said that his administration would build an electrified fence on the U.S. border with Mexico that could kill illegal immigrants.
“That’s not a serious plan,” Cain told “Meet the Press” host David Gregory, calling the comments a “joke.”
“I’ve also said America needs to get a sense of humor.”
Asked about the possible effects of his plan to replace the current tax code with a 9 percent corporate income tax, 9 percent personal income tax and 9 percent national sales tax, Cain said, “Some people will pay more, but most people will pay less.”
He dismissed a Washington Post report citing economists who say the plan would hurt many poor and middle-class families because many of them pay little or no taxes under the current code.
“The people who spend more money on new goods” would see their taxes rise under his plan, Cain said, but the elderly would see their taxes fall. Many retirees receive income from investments, and the “tax on dividends and tax on income generated from investments, you only pay once,” he said.
He predicted that competition would push down prices for consumers. By scrapping the current federal tax code — which he described as a “10-million-word mess” — his plan also would eliminate a multitude of “invisible” taxes and eventually reduce prices, he said.
Cain also dismissed a Wall Street Journal editorial that criticized a 9 percent rate as resulting in a total increase of 17 percent or more when combined with state and local taxes.
“These are replacement taxes; they’re not on top of anything,” Cain said of his plan. “This doesn’t address state taxes.”
He acknowledged that “if you combine it together, yes, you would get that number,” but when pressed on whether state taxes would be repealed, Cain said they “have nothing to do with replacing the tax code.”
Cain also spoke of his “humble” background as the son of a maid and a father who worked as a barber, janitor and chauffeur.
And he defended his decision to campaign without his wife of 43 years, Gloria.
“My wife supports me 200 percent,” Cain said, but he called his solo journey a “different kind of campaign.”
“My wife and I, we have a family life, and she is maintaining a calmness and the tranquility of that family life so when I do get a day off from the campaign trail, I can go home and enjoy my family,” he said.