Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain performed quite well on Meet the Press Sunday morning. It's worth watching the entire segment posted below. (You can find a transcript here.)
Given some of the inherent problems of his 9-9-9 tax plan, Cain defended his proposal probably as best he could. The former Godfather's pizza CEO argued that lowering business taxes would lower the price of goods. "For example, take a loaf of bread," he said. "The farmer pays taxes on his profits. The company that makes the flour, the baker, the delivery man. By the time that loaf of bread gets to the grocery store, there are a series of invisible taxes, which are also called embedded taxes. So, in reality, those taxes go away and so the price of goods don't go up."
MTP host David Gregory was incredulous. "You're saying they actually go down?"
"Yes, they actually go down," Cain replied.
"Based on what?" Gregory asked.
"Based upon competition," Cain replied. "Competition drives prices down. For example, suppose one breadmaker says, "I'm going to charge $2.20 for a loaf of bread," and the other one says he's going to charge $2.40 for a loaf of bread. Well, guess which one is going to win out based upon the quality being essentially the same?"
Gregory did hit on one of the key problems with Cain's plan by pointing out that it raises the tax burden on some poor Americans. "If you don't pay taxes now, and you now have income tax and a sales tax, you pay more in taxes," Gregory said. Cain acknowledged that "some people will pay more, but most people would pay less." Who are "some people"? "The people who spend more money on new goods," Cain replied. "The sales tax only applies to people who buy new goods, not used goods."
Turning to foreign policy, Gregory asked Cain who has shaped his views. Cain cited realist Henry Kissinger as well as Ambassador John Bolton. "Would you describe yourself as a neoconservative then?" Gregory asked.
Like any good Socratic neoconservative, Cain answered the question with a question: "I'm not sure what you mean by neoconservative? I am a conservative, yes. Neoconservative?--labels sometimes will put you in a box. I'm very conservative, but..."
"But you're familiar with the neoconservative movement?" Gregory asked.
"I'm not familiar with the neoconservative movement," Cain replied. "I'm familiar with the conservative movement." Cain was able subtly to indicate that he knows, unlike Gregory, that neoconservatism is a persuasion or tendency, not a movement.