Saturday, October 29, 2011

3rd Concern with the 9-9-9 Plan

Conservatives vs. 999ers -

By: Larry Walker, Jr. -

Under the 9-9-9 Plan, “95 percent of people making $1 million or more would get a tax cut that averaged $487,300.” ~Tax Policy Center -

At a Michigan website entitled, North Star Writers Group, Herman Cain attempted to address some of the criticism to his 9-9-9 Plan. The article, dated October 16, 2011, is entitled, "9 responses to 9 false attacks on the 9-9-9 plan". But somehow Mr. Cain has confused what is merely constructive criticism with “attacks”. I mean it’s as if when one asks Mr. Cain a valid question these days, he either gets it wrong the first time, or he simply pulls the ‘assault card’. Yet, after I criticized Mr. Cain’s plan (not him personally), when I wrote an article entitled, "Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 Sham", I was personally labeled as a Marxist, Communist, as naïve, an idiot, and a left-wing shill. And all of that came from fellow, so called, conservatives. So has Mr. Cain's plan really been “attacked”, or are perhaps the 9 concerns, which he deems to be false attacks, simply valid points?

Personally, I think that when conservatives start calling fellow conservative’s naïve, Communist, Marxist, idiots, and left-wing shills somebody’s got a problem. To contrast, the article I wrote immediately prior to my critique of Mr. Cain’s tax plan was entitled, "Obamacare’s Deadweight Loss", and with that I was practically branded as a conservative champion, by way of private commentary. But apparently, sometime between October 12th and October 23rd, I either lost my mind, or I unwittingly signed on with the Communist Party USA. I’ll let you decide. Okay, so today I’m not going to list all 9 of the concerns that many have with the 9-9-9 Plan, but just the 3rd, and Mr. Cain’s response.

Claim 3: The plan redistributes wealth from the poor to the rich.

Response: “It does no such thing. It is fair and neutral, taxing everything once and nothing twice. What’s more, we are getting ready to propose empowerment zones for economically struggling areas in which the rates will be even lower. That will allow the poor to benefit even more from the plan than they already would.”

Mr. Cain’s main argument against the fact that his plan redistributes wealth from the poor to the rich is that, “it does no such thing.” But what does that mean? Simply stating “it does no such thing” doesn’t satisfy the anxiety. The real concern is that since the top 1% of income earners pay 38% of all income taxes, and because the 9-9-9 Plan reduces their tax rate by 74%, while at the same time exempting empowerment zone residents, that either a greater burden of taxes will be borne by the middle class and working poor, or the United States will go down in flames in a matter of weeks instead of years.

Also, according to Mr. Cain, “it is fair and neutral, taxing everything once and not twice”. But this is simply not true. As proof, since the 9-9-9 Plan doesn’t allow businesses to deduct wages in determining taxable income, it in effect imposes a 9% tax on wages at the corporate level, and then taxes wages again at the individual level. So how is this not taxing something twice? And further, when the same wages are spent into the economy, they are hit again by a 9% national sales tax. So wages are not only taxed once or twice under Mr. Cain’s plan, but at least three times. Following are two hypothetical examples of what the 9-9-9 Plan will accomplish when it moves from Cain's chalkboard to the real economy.

Example 1

For example, in the table below, a couple has wages of $1,000,000 and only claims the standard deduction and personal exemption(s). Under the current tax code they would pay federal taxes of $334,043, and only $90,000 under the 9-9-9 Plan. Thus, under Mr. Cain’s plan, this couple would receive a tax cut of $244,035. And in order to make up for the shortfall in revenue, by way of his national sales tax, the couple would need to spend $2,711,500 (244,035 / .09) on items subject to the 9% sales tax, or almost three times the amount of their earned income.

Example 2

Since under the current tax code, the taxpayer’s in the first example are already in a 35% marginal tax bracket, if they earned an additional $1,000,000, they would pay federal taxes of $698,543 under the current tax code, versus $180,000 under the 9-9-9 Plan. So under Mr. Cain’s plan, this couple would receive a tax cut of $518,543 (see table below). And in order to make up for the shortfall in revenue, by way of the national sales tax, the couple would need to spend $5,761,588 (518,543 / .09) on items subject to the 9% sales tax, or almost three times the amount of their earned income.

According to a study on GOP flat tax proposals conducted by the Tax Policy Center, the 9-9-9 Plan would cause '95 percent of people making $1 million or more to receive tax cuts averaging $487,300'. The dilemma is that since Mr. Cain claims his plan to be revenue neutral, that is to say, the amount of total taxes collected today will be the same under his plan, then where will the money come from to make up the shortfall? You guessed it! From the same study conducted by the Tax Policy Center –

“Only 16 percent of people making between $50,000 and $75,000 a year would get a tax cut, averaging $1,959, and at least 70 percent of people in this middle-income category would see their average federal taxes rise by $4,326.”

So I guess Mr. Cain better hope that the middle class, who are busy working everyday and taxed enough already, aren’t paying too much attention to his claims. But I don’t think that’s the case. Perhaps Mr. Cain needs to go back to the drawing board.

Laffer’s Folly

In a second article written in the same venue entitled, “Arthur Laffer brings reality to 9-9-9 discussion”, Mr. Cain states that, “Contrary to some of what you hear in current conversation, the theory of the Laffer Curve was proven correct when Ronald Reagan cut marginal tax rates across the board in 1981, and federal revenues soared. So did deficits, of course, and that’s the part you usually hear about. But that’s because federal spending soared even more. Excessive spending, not insufficiently high tax rates, was the problem then and it’s still the problem today.”

Notice how Mr. Cain implies that it was “not insufficiently high tax rates” that was the problem back then, or today. That’s a double negative, but doesn’t Mr. Cain’s statement refute his own plan? If tax rates are not the problem today, but rather excessive government spending, then why are we even talking about a 9-9-9 Plan? A few month’s ago, conservatives were in unity behind a platform of not raising the Bush tax rates, and reducing government spending. Yesterday it was, “We don’t have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem.” But now, suddenly, it seems that many conservatives believe that all of our problems can be solved through Mr. Cain’s proposed wealth displacement. So does Mr. Cain’s plan balance the federal budget? Will it fix Social Security and Medicare’s solvency issues? If the answer is no, then what is the point?

Laffer’s curve - In the 1981 Act, Reagan cut the top tax rate from 70% to 50%, and closed many loopholes. He didn’t propose cutting the top rate to 9% and adding a 9% national sales tax. Reagan later raised the bottom rate from 0% to 15%, and cut the top rate down to 28%. But his plan was reasonable, while Cain's proposition is extreme. On its own merits, the 9-9-9 Plan is extreme enough to fall off the other end of Laffer’s curve. Laffer defined a sweet spot somewhere in the middle - as when tax rates are too high, tax revenues decrease, and when tax rates are too low, tax revenues decrease, but when tax rates are just right, revenues will increase. But I believe that Cain's plan overshoots the sweet spot by a long shot. In other words, if Reagan Era tax rates were the mark, and I believe that they were, then why not just bring them back?

Policies have consequences - The 999-Plan will create a host of unintended social problems which naturally occur on the other end of Laffer’s curve. Giving average tax cuts of $487,300 to 95% of people making over $1 million per year, and increasing the tax burden on the working poor and middle-class, solves nothing. Yes I am a conservative, and if you don’t believe it then read the rest of my blog. I’m not too sure how to classify Mr. Cain’s 9-9-9 Plan, but from my point of view, 9-9-9 is not a conservative plan, and not something that conservatives should even be considering. Had Mr. Cain not risked his entire campaign upon this flimsy reed; he might have had my support. But even if Herman Cain is somehow able to win the Republican Party nomination, I’ll be casting my vote for the first viable 3rd party candidate.

Related:

Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 Sham

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