- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 16, 2011

GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain defended his “9-9-9” tax reform plan Sunday, saying critics who call it a political nonstarter will be proven wrong.

“The American people understand it, the American people are going to demand it,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO acknowledged that the 9-9-9 plan - a proposal to replace the federal tax code with a 9 percent national sales tax, a 9 percent corporate tax and a 9 percent individual income tax - would mean some Americans who spend more would pay more in taxes.

“Some people will pay more, but most people will pay less,” he said, and he predicted American taxpayers will back the reform - despite a chorus of skeptics, including conservative voices like the Wall Street Journal opinion page, which wrote last week that “the real defect of the Cain plan is that it imposes a new national sales tax while maintaining the income tax.”

“If they do the math on their individual situations I believe more people are going to see that it is advantageous,” he said.

The plan also has been criticized by Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, who said 9-9-9’s sales tax opens up a new revenue stream that would likely be exploited by lawmakers, despite Mr. Cain’s pledges to cap the tax.

Mr. Cain said critics are underestimating the appeal of his plan.

“There is a huge amount of public support for 9-9-9. Just talk to anybody. This is what’s going to help us get it passed,” he said.

The 9-9-9 plan will be a hard sell in states like New Hampshire, where there is no sales tax, predicted one of Mr. Cain’s rivals for the GOP nomination, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

“If he can explain a 9 percent sales tax so people decide they want it, he has a good chance to be the nominee,” Mr. Gingrich said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

But Mr. Cain’s poll numbers, so far, have backed up the candidate’s confidence: In the latest Real Clear Politics composite poll, the former pizza executive and talk show host is virtually tied with Mitt Romney for first in the GOP field, with 23.2 percent support nationwide to the former Massachusetts governor’s 23.5 percent.

In the wide-ranging “Meet the Press” interview, the Georgia businessman commented on a variety of topics, from his spouse “she supports me 200 percent” to his foreign policy “My philosophy is an extension of the Reagan philosophy: Peace through strength and clarity.”

Mr. Cain said he feels race will not be an issue in the Republican primary, telling host David Gregory that he prefers “black American,” to the term “African-American.”

“The roots of my heritage are American. I consider myself a black American,” he said.

Mr. Cain cites Justice Clarence Thomas as an example of what he would look for in a Supreme Court justice.

“I believe, despite attacks from the left, he basically rules and makes his decision - based on the Constitution and solid legal thinking,” he said.

Mr. Cain said he opposed abortion, including in cases of rape or incest, though he said that in cases in which the life of the mother was at stake, “the family is going to have to make that decision.”

He said he is opposed to same-sex marriage, but would leave those policy decisions up to the states.

• David Eldridge can be reached at deldridge@washingtontimes.com.

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