Herman Cain continues to surge in the Republican presidential primary. A new national Washington Post/ABC poll shows Cain tied for second place with Texas governor Rick Perry, and Public Policy Polling finds Cain leading in North Carolina, Nebraska, and West Virginia.
But with greater success, Cain is also facing greater scrutiny. During a brief phone interview this afternoon with THE WEEKLY STANDARD, Cain responded to questions that have been raised about his positions on the war on terror and taxes.
Asked why he had backed off his opposition to the U.S. military's targeting Anwar Awlaki, the al Qaeda terrorist and American citizen who was killed Friday by a drone strike in Yemen, Cain denied that he had ever opposed taking out Awlaki.
“I never said that [President Obama] should not have ordered [the killing]. I don’t recall saying that. I think you’ve got some misinformation," Cain said. "Keep in mind that there are a lot of people out there trying to make me sound as if I am indecisive."
“I don’t know all of the compelling evidence that the intelligence agencies and the military had. I’m convinced—I’m convinced that they have enough intelligence information that said he’s a threat to the United States of America,” Cain said. “You don’t try to prosecute or capture him simply because he’s a United States citizen.”
But in May, Cain was asked: "Do you think it's legal to issue a shoot-to-kill order in [Awlaki's] case?"
"In his case, no, because he's an American citizen," Cain replied. "If he's an American citizen, which is the big difference, then he should be charged, and he should be arrested and brought to justice." Cain reiterated his opposition to killing Awlaki in an interview weeks later.
Cain also insisted that his 9-9-9 plan (a 9 percent corporate tax, 9 percent sales tax, and 9 percent personal income tax) would not raise the tax burden on the working poor. "You’re gonna hear people say it’s regressive on the poor. No it's not. That's a lie. Look at the numbers," he said.
But for many Americans who pay no income tax right now, wouldn't a 9 percent flat income tax plus a 9 percent sales tax raise their overall tax burden? “That’s where you’re wrong, kemo sabe," Cain told me. "The payroll tax is 15.3 percent. On the first dollar, okay?” Cain is (reasonably) saying that the worker pays for both his contribution and his employer's contribution toward the payroll tax. The 9-9-9 plan would eliminate the payroll tax. “Instead of 15.3 percent taken off the top, it’s now 9 percent,” he said. By switching to the 9-9-9 plan, Cain said, “you would still end up, if you’re making $50,000 a year, with an extra $2,000. If you’re making $25,000 a year you only end up with $1,000.”
That all depends on whether you're paying taxes as an individual or as a family. Under Cain's 9-9-9 plan, an individual making $25,000 would pay about $4,300 in taxes (assuming they spent all of their wages on new goods; the sales tax doesn't hit used goods). That individual's net tax burden would be more than $1,000 higher under the current system.
But a family of three making $25,000 would pay thousands of dollars more in taxes under Cain's plan. Under the current code, that family's payroll taxes would be offset by the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit. The only tax deduction Cain would keep is the charitable deduction. Why didn't Cain keep the child tax credit? “It just clouds up the situation,” Cain said. “We don’t want the government in the business of picking winners and losers.”