The Corner

9-9-9: It’s Complicated


9-9-9 isn’t as simple as it used to be.

In a speech in Detroit today, Herman Cain introduced another component to his 9-9-9 plan: opportunity zones.  In those zones – which would be given to economically-distressed areas – there would be certain benefits, such as “deductions to employers for the total amount of payroll employed within in the Zone, subject to income limits,” and “anyone living in the Zone will get a deduction (not a credit) and anyone working in the Zone will get a deduction (subject to income limits),” and “means tested benefits should be restructured or reformed so they don’t counteract the incentives for work.” Read the campaign’s presentation of the opportunity zones here.

There have been criticisms that the 9-9-9 plan would burden low-income Americans with higher taxes, but Cain announced today that there would be no income tax levied on the poorest.

“If you are at or below the poverty level, your plan isn’t 9-9-9,” Cain said in his speech, according to CNN. “It is 9-0-9. Say amen y’all. 9-0-9.”

In an interview today, Cain said both the opportunity zones and the no income tax for those at poverty level or below had always been part of the 9-9-9 plan.

“We’ve had that poverty provision in there all along in terms of the amount of revenue we were going to generate with 9-9-9,” Cain told Fox News. “We’ve had the opportunity zone in there all along.”

“The reason I didn’t bring it up earlier,” he added, “is because I wanted to introduce people to the idea before I unveiled some of the other pieces. Look, it’s already been attacked because they said it did do this and didn’t do that. … My point is this: they didn’t read my plan all the way through!”

A study from the Tax Policy Center released this week found that 84 percent of households would have a tax hike, not a decrease, under 9-9-9.

“Those provisions were already there,” Cain stressed again in reference to the provisions emphasized in his speech today. “The people who are attacking it simply did not look at the analysis.”

Katrina Trinko — Katrina Trinko is a political reporter for National Review. Trinko is also a member of USA TODAY’S Board of Contributors, and her work has been published in various media outlets ...

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