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That’s German for “No, no, oh God, please, no!” But it’s also the catchy moniker of  GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain’s economic plan. You know, the one that’s so simple it fits in a nutshell no bigger than…um….Herman Cain’s brain. But for Republicans, who are famously suspicious of thick documents that require, you know, actually reading, it is sheer genius. It also demonstrates with utter clarity how draconian an economic policy that punishes the poor and liberates the stinking rich can be. A black man with really bad policies! Wait a minute, I thought that was what the Tea Party was against. The Daily Beast explains the multifaceted downsides of candidate Cain’s bite-sized platform:

The one-minute explanation: corporate taxes, now close to 40 percent, would be cut to 9 percent. Federal income taxes, now as high as 35 percent, would be cut to 9 percent. And consumers would pay a national sales tax of 9 percent for all products, on top of any state and local levies—bringing the total in New York City, for instance, to 17.875 percent. (It’s not clear whether services would be included.)

That’s good news if you’re a big company or upper-bracket taxpayer, but not so much if you’re a low-income working stiff. While Cain denies that his plan would be regressive, the working poor tend to spend most or all of their pay, which would be taxed every time they buy something. Michael Ettlinger, a vice president at the liberal Center for American Progress, says the plan would impose “the biggest shift from the wealthy to the middle class in the history of taxation, ever, anywhere.”

That’s not just the left-wing view. Bruce Bartlett, an adviser in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, says that 9-9-9 is unfair to working taxpayers. “It’s the most upside-down tax plan that’s been put forward to tax the poor and the middle class,” he says. “It’s rather insane it’s gotten as much attention as it has. It’s a waste of my time to attack it.” What’s more, Bartlett says of what Cain has made public, “there is not nearly enough information on which to do a serious analysis.” The Cain campaign wasn’t answering questions about it on Wednesday.

Daniel Shaviro, a New York University law professor who specializes in taxation, calls the plan “not viable.” For rich people—defined as those who work for themselves and don’t have to take a salary—it essentially becomes an 18 percent total tax on all money. But for poor people collecting a paycheck, Shaviro says, it amounts to a 27 percent tax. “It’s a disservice to public debate to have people think it’s so simple,” he says.


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