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Herman Cain's Murky 9-9-9 Tax Plan

Publication Date: 
October 18, 2011
Los Angeles Times
Michael Hiltzik

Professor Joseph Bankman spoke with Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times about potential faults in Herman Cain's proposed tax plan.

Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan would probably be seen as just another cockamamie tax scheme were it not for his surprising ascendance to front-runner ranks in the Republican Party primary.

Yet one of the more interesting questions raised by the plan hasn't gotten much attention: What accounts for the enduring popularity of such tax nostrums, when they never pencil out?


"Almost all of these visionary tax proposals leave out details you really want to know," observes Joseph Bankman, a tax policy expert at Stanford Law School. He says these schemes play on people's fear of taxes and on the complexity of the tax code — but that it's a long way to get from there to the idea that everybody paying the same percentage of income to the tax man is necessarily "fair."


As Bankman observed in 1995, even as Hall and Rabushka were claiming that their tax was "the fairest tax of all" because it treated all income earners pretty much the same, they acknowledged that it would be "a tremendous boon to the economic elite from the start."