(Ethan Miller/Getty Images )
Reporting from Las Vegas — Herman Cain’s "9-9-9" tax plan lost some its trademark simplicity today when the Republican presidential hopeful carved out a sales tax exemption for the poor.
Cain’s revision of 9-9-9 came a day after rivals for his party’s White House nomination roundly criticized his signature plan to toss out the U.S. tax code and replace it with a 9% income tax, a 9% business tax and a 9% sales tax.
The former Godfather’s Pizza executive told a couple hundred party faithful here that his opponents were trying to confuse and scare voters by making them think a federal sales tax would put a new burden on millions of Americans. Cain was especially dismissive of the idea that a federal sales tax would harm the poor.
“We’re not going to throw the people at the poverty level under the bus,” Cain told an audience at the Western Republican Leadership Conference. “No, we’re not going to do that. But we’ve already made provisions for that. But I just hadn’t told the public and my opponents about it yet. So we’re going to take care of those who are less economically advantaged.”
Cain offered no details on how he would spare the poor from the federal sales tax. He suggested his decision to keep the exemption secret until today was a calculated strategic move.
“I wanted to wait until I got attacked on that for a while,” said Cain, whose plan was attacked Tuesday by rivals at a Las Vegas debate. “We already have a plan for that. But I wanted to see if they would come at that. They thought that it was going to be dead in the water. No.”
A recent analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice, a left-leaning think tank, found that under Cain’s 9-9-9 plan, the poorest 60% of taxpayers would pay an extra $2,000 while the richest 1% would get a $210,000 break.
In his remarks today at the Venetian casino resort, Cain reiterated that his plan would maintain income tax deductions for charitable donations. But he said he would still keep the plan simple and fair.
“Get this part,” he said. “No loopholes for anybody.”