(Photo: REUTERS / Rebecca Cook)
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has adjusted his 9-9-9 tax plan in favor of poor Americans, days after it was attacked by his rivals at the CNN presidential debate in Las Vegas.
The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO, who was in Detroit Friday, said his plan would exempt Americans living at or below the poverty line from income taxes, according to the Associated Press. He also proposed setting up “opportunity zones” to encourage business investment in run-down neighborhoods.
Until Friday, Cain had said his 9-9-9 plan would replace all current taxes with a 9 percent tax on personal income, a 9 percent national sales tax, and a 9 percent business tax.
Cain introduced exemptions as he stood facing a deserted train depot with broken windows and barbed wire in Detroit. “When I look at this building behind me, I see opportunity – if we get capital gains out of the way,” he was quoted as saying. “There are a lot of people in this country that have money, and capital gains is a wall between people with money and people with ideas.”
“And that’s because taxes and regulations have gotten “so bad, people with money don’t want to take risks,” he added.
While Democrats oppose the idea of a flat tax, saying lower income earners should not have to pay the same as millionaires, Cain’s original 9-9-9 plan initially helped him gain massive support among conservative voters. However, it was fiercely attacked by the other Republican candidates at Tuesday’s CNN presidential debate in Las Vegas.
Days before the debate, an independent analysis by the Tax Policy Center showed that Cain’s tax plan would raise taxes on 84 percent of American households, affecting mostly poor and middle-income families. Taxes for households making between $10,000 and $20,000 would increase by nearly 950 percent, it said. On the other hand, the analysis pointed out, households with the highest incomes would benefit the most, as the plan would cut taxes of those earning over $1 million a year almost in half.
Cain, however, refused to call the new proposals a correction. “We simply chose not to talk about this piece earlier,” he said. “We didn’t want to put it all out there at once.”
The Atlanta businessman tweaked his tax plan a day after he had to reassure conservative voters of his anti-abortion stand. He said in a statement he was “100 percent pro-life” and would appoint pro-life judges.
Cain came under criticism after he told CNN Wednesday that although he opposed abortion “it’s not the government’s role or anybody else’s role to make that decision.” “It ultimately gets down to a choice that that family or that mother has to make,” he said. But a day later, he clarified that he was just saying that the president did not have constitutional authority to order any such action by anyone.
Meanwhile, Texas Gov. and Cain’s rival Rick Perry is also expected to announce a similar flat tax plan during the coming week in South Carolina.