Scarborough: Cain and 9-9-9 are “an absolute joke”

posted at 10:45 am on October 17, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Business Insider catches this delightful moment from today’s Morning Joe, in which Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski chuckle over the Republican infatuation with Herman Cain and the 9-9-9 plan. It takes a while for Joe to get to brass tacks, but he finally unloads on Cain, calling him “an absolute joke” and telling viewers that he likes Santa Claus, too, but … come on.  It takes Mark Halperin to inject some actual insight into why Cain and his message has resonated, even if he seems an unlikely candidate “strolling” for election rather than running:

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JOE SCARBOROUGH: A lot of people are saying they like that guy [Herman Cain]. I like Santa Claus. Herman Cain and this 999 thing is just an absolute joke. I said that about Michele Bachmann and people got upset. He is strolling for president. You look at the amount of time logged, the hours logged in the early primary states… he’s just not there. He was in Tennessee the other night. He was on a book tour. While he is on a book tour he’s saying things like he is going to put up electric fences that kill illegal immigrants and when he gets called on, he says, oh, that’s a joke. Some kind of joke.

MARK HALPERIN: He’s running in an unconventional way. The way to look at Herman Cain now is less a likely nominee and more the way to look at Occupy Wall Street which is, something’s happening in this country right now and people are reacting to it all across the political spectrum in ways that are elevating Herman Cain and elevating these protesters. He’s tapping into people’s desire to have somebody outside Washington at the center of the Republican Party.

After Halperin corrects Scarborough by pointing out the obvious — that anti-establishment feeling is riding high in the grassroots of both sides of the ideological divide — Scarborough then makes a more cogent and challenging observation:

JS: And it doesn’t really matter whether they know how Washington runs or not.  You think the Republicans who have been saying for years that Barack Obama was ill-equipped to be President of the United States — which he was — would not then run to Sarah Palin, and Michele Bachmann, and Herman Cain, and a group of candidates who are ill-equipped to run Washington and this country.

That’s a fair point with Bachmann and with Cain, not so much with Palin or the rest of the field.  Bachmann has never held an executive position in government, and Cain has never won an election, although he did serve as a Fed chair in Kansas City for a couple of years.  Cain has a long resumé as an executive in the private sector, though, while Obama didn’t have any executive experience at all and nearly no national legislative experience when he began his presidential bid.  Palin had two-plus years as a governor, Romney four, Huntsman more, and Perry eleven years — and Presidents who come to Washington with gubernatorial rather than Senate experience tend to do better in office.  The three Presidents elected to the White House from the Senate in the past century are pretty good indicators of the pitfalls — Warren Harding, John Kennedy, and Obama.  Of the three, only Kennedy showed any hint of improvement in his presidency; the other two have been disasters.

We’ve never elected anyone to the Presidency from the private sector, or at least not in a very long time.  It might be hard to balance the critique of Obama against support for someone without electoral political office experience, but at least we would have a candidate with a track record as a successful executive — and that’s something Obama can’t claim now.

Speaking of 9-9-9, Herman Cain has offered a nine-point defense of his plan from his syndicated perch at Northstar Writers, pushing back against the critiques from both right and left:

Claim 1: The 9 percent sales tax, which is one third of the formula, is regressive and hurts the poor, many of whom pay no federal income taxes now. Response: This claim ignores some important aspects of the plan. One is that we eliminate the 15 percent payroll tax, which allows for no deductions at all – not even for charitable contributions. Some critics have argued that the poor still come out behind because employers pay much of the payroll tax. That demonstrates a basic misunderstanding about how compensation works in the business world. An employer decides to accept a certain cost-of-employment for each employee, and the employer’s share of the payroll tax is part of that cost. It comes out of your compensation whether you realize it or not. Also, a flat tax is not – by definition – a regressive tax. Everyone pays the same rate. And it is not an added tax, but a replacement tax, whose total burden is determined by the consumer’s spending decisions.

Finally, the best way to help the poor is by spurring economic growth, which the current tax code will never do, and which the 9-9-9 plan is specifically designed to do.

Claim 2: Creating a new tax is merely setting the stage for higher rates on all taxes, as untrustworthy politicians will surely raise them. Response: First of all, that is not a criticism of the 9-9-9 plan. It is a criticism of politicians. If you don’t want the rates raised, don’t elect politicians who will raise them. Even if we repealed the 16thAmendment and eliminated the income tax, as some demand in return for establishing a consumption tax, politicians could raise that rate too. What’s far more important here is the fact that the very simple, flat-rate structure of the 9-9-9 plan, which allows no deductions, loopholes or exemptions (with the exception of charitable contributions for the income tax), is a far more growth-friendly tax structure than the mangled mess of rates, taxes, exemptions and ill-conceived incentives we have today. It virtually eliminates the massive compliance costs of the current tax code, and it restrains the size of government.

By taking away the politicians’ gateway drug of loopholes and deductions, we make it much more difficult for them to mess with the tax code. Having said that, any plan could be criticized for what it would look like if someone messed it up. The plan as I’m proposing it is a huge improvement over the status quo.

Claim 3: The plan redistributes wealth from the poor to the rich.Response: It does no such thing. It is fair and neutral, taxing everything once and nothing twice. What’s more, we are getting ready to propose empowerment zones for economically struggling areas in which the rates will be even lower. That will allow the poor to benefit even more from the plan than they already would.

Be sure to read it all.

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Memo to Mika– wardrobe called; apparently, they’ve been ordered to sew the sleeves back on.

morganfrost on October 17, 2011 at 12:45 PM

What I don’t particularly care about Scarborough’s attitude here is that it suggests that 9-9-9 is not a serious, substantive policy proposal. You can think whatever you like about the merits (or lack thereof) of 9-9-9, but it’s the only substantive policy proposal I’ve heard from any of the current crop of candidates. I know that others have supposedly advanced their own alternative ideas, but apparently the LSM and perhaps even the Republican elites thought that 9-9-9 would sink Herman Cain like a rock. Hah!

gryphon202 on October 17, 2011 at 10:58 AM

Exactly!

Scarborough doesn’t address, discuss, or critique any of the points of Cain’s plan (because Joe hasn’t read the Cliff Notes version yet and still wouldn’t understand it anyway).

Scarborough is too shallow for words. What political chops did he have prior to going to Washington himself and shaping legislation that affects the whole nation? Does he have a double standard for himself when compared to Cain?

What I do not like about Cain’s plan is the Empowerment Zones part. This idea, while I understand its purpose in jump-starting a better economy in poorer areas, seems like a two-tier plan, almost like a progressive tax. Do these Empowerment Zones ever move out of that coddling position or is it a sneak welfare plan for a two-tiered society?

onlineanalyst on October 17, 2011 at 12:46 PM

Obama is now embracing OWS so OWS is now going to be an unmitigated failure.

NotCoach on October 17, 2011 at 12:07 PM

The lawyer in Obama’s thought bubble, nothing ventured -nothing gained. He really doesn’t get that he’s lost his shine and people aren’t gushing over him anymore. He can’t afford the loser optics.

Dr Evil on October 17, 2011 at 12:47 PM

I am becoming more certain every day that we are about to hear those famous last words. What is unclear to me is WHO will be the first to utter them?

Of course those words are … VooDoo Economics!

Freddy on October 17, 2011 at 12:48 PM

Whatever they are kvetching about is exactly what I will support. Add up the idiots and egomaniacs on MSNBC, CNN ETAL – and you can’t get one functional brain.

IlonaE on October 17, 2011 at 12:51 PM

PS: 9-9-9 will actually work. It tok me quite a while to figure it all out, which means it will take months, if not years, for the media to figure it out.

The politicians already know it will work. Unfortunatly, politicians have a vested interest in maintaining the cash flow for their campaign coffers from people that desire special interest tax adjustments. This includes politicians on both sides of the aisle!

Freddy on October 17, 2011 at 12:52 PM

Joey should recognize a joke when he seesw one.

Mr. Grump on October 17, 2011 at 12:57 PM

Obama’s ideology is the main reason why his Presidency has been such a failure, not his lack of executive experience (although it is a factor).

RedRobin145 on October 17, 2011 at 12:57 PM

Ted Torgerson on October 17, 2011 at 12:12 PM

So as I said earlier, Herman Cain is all for waiving taxes on repatriated corporate profits, while raising them on working class families. How is that supposed to help the situation??

ernesto on October 17, 2011 at 12:57 PM

Truly a stinging rebuke to be called a joke by such a luminary as Joe Scarborough on a leading tv network.

sgtstogie on October 17, 2011 at 12:57 PM

I hope whoever wrote those answers for Cain is replaced soon. They make no sense at all.

Even if we repealed the 16thAmendment and eliminated the income tax, as some demand in return for establishing a consumption tax, politicians could raise that rate too.

Nonsensical. If the income tax was totally removed and now unconstitutional, how exactly would politicians “raise that rate too”?

It does no such thing. It is fair and neutral, taxing everything once and nothing twice.

Well, it exempts capital gains and dividends, which poor and working class do not have much of. In addition, everyone’s savings will get double taxed since we’ve paid high income taxes on that amount already but now get to pay the national sales tax in addition.

AngusMc on October 17, 2011 at 12:59 PM

That’s a fair point with Bachmann and with Cain, not so much with Palin or the rest of the field.

No it is Not! Both Bachman and Cain have owned and ran businesses before. Something that makes both of them very qualified for the executive position in this current environment. It is also somethig that Obama has never done, and it shows in his fundamental lack of understanding of economics and the business cycle.

paulsur on October 17, 2011 at 1:45 PM

ernesto on October 17, 2011 at 12:57 PM

I’d say a couple things.

1. Taxing consumption instead of income encourages savings, and savings leads to investment and capital formation, which leads to new businesses and innovation and, ultimately, new hiring. GOOD

2. Adding a revenue stream through a consumption tax will probably open the flood gates and you will see the sales tax rate climb to 12-15%. That is the pattern of every new type of tax including the income tax. BAD

3. A radically simplified income tax reduces tax cheating and reducing compliance burdens, together which account for hundreds of billions of dollars in lost revenue. GOOD

4. Disallowing deductions and removing credits will reduce preceived fairness in the tax code, which has been used to advance a lot of worthy social policy. For example you can get a $10,000 tax credit for family expenses of adoption. That would go away and that family would have to pay a lot more tax. Will that affect adoptions? Probably on the margins. BAD

Overall it is not “a joke” as Joe Scarborough calls it, but it is not a panacea or obviously better than what we have now.

Ted Torgerson on October 17, 2011 at 2:24 PM

If Herman Cain does win the nomination it would be one of my deepest wishes that he had a studio audience… I can hear myself now.

“Herman Cain you punk biatch!”

or

“How’s Herman’s a$$ taste?”

I never really “liked” Scarborough but I did not dislike him either he had some good poiints and bad points but I could listen to him. I like his current schtick. It is cementing support behind Herman Cain because Scarborugh is so odious. Keep up the good work Joe. Criticize Herman Cain right into a victory in Iowa…

Theworldisnotenough on October 17, 2011 at 2:25 PM

10% Flat income, corporate, estate, cap gains, no sales tax. If the government cannot subsist on 15% of the GDP then the fat needs trimmed back.

This revenue neutral crap annoys me. We must shrink the damned spending. Giving them the same amount of$$ will not do that.

Nathan_OH on October 17, 2011 at 2:26 PM

That’s a fair point with Bachmann and with Cain, not so much with Palin or the rest of the field. Bachmann has never held an executive position in government, and Cain has never won an election,

geez ed, your buying into that line of crap also. the idea that someone not involved in politics is at a disadvantage in “running” washington depends on the person and their background. cain has been overly successful in every aspect of his career. now i wouldnt expect him to be some kinda uber president but he could certainly be more successful than most we have had in the 20th century.

chasdal on October 17, 2011 at 2:30 PM

Liberal Republican Takes a Dump Inside the Tent.

I’m… uh… shocked…

or something.

Wingo on October 17, 2011 at 3:29 PM

No it is Not! Both Bachman and Cain have owned and ran businesses before. Something that makes both of them very qualified for the executive position in this current environment. It is also somethig that Obama has never done, and it shows in his fundamental lack of understanding of economics and the business cycle.

paulsur on October 17, 2011 at 1:45 PM

Ed, revisit her series in Alaska. Paulsur, they DID have the fishing business. I dunno if they passed all of it to Track or most of it, and because of Exxon all fishermen got affected by the oil. Like any normal family, they made ends meet.

Palin has experience ever since PTO. Everybody is getting tired of the lack of vetting and by all means I am not a thread hijacker. So carry on. This is not about her-family over country-but 9-9-9 must be scrutinized and fact-checked more carefully.

Someone ran his last year’s taxes under his plan and there were some discrepancies and he posted about it (either here or at Zip’s). It’d be kewl if Mr. PPF did this, and some of you that are more number-friendly.

ProudPalinFan on October 17, 2011 at 3:41 PM

Also, a flat tax is not – by definition – a regressive tax.

I find this statement deeply troubling. It focuses on form and ignores impact. A flat sales tax may not be regressive in the narrow sense that the rate doesn’t change relative to income, but it is absolutely regressive in effect when applied to the necessities of life. The tax cost of buying $100 dollars of groceries or medicine is far less as a percentage of available income to a family with an income of $250,000 than it is to a family with an income of $50,000. The impact is profoundly regressive. For people on fixed incomes, like the elderly and the disabled, who pay no income tax, a massive increase is sales taxes would be ruinous.

Cain has a reputation as a straight shooter and a smart guy. It is difficult to reconcile those attributes with a statement that reflects either a deliberate misrepresentation or a failure to grasp a fundamental aspect of taxation.

novaculus on October 17, 2011 at 3:42 PM

So, the blind item about an A list Republican radio/tv host having a long-term affair with a fellow A lister in his circle has been decided as Joe and Mika, right?

di butler on October 17, 2011 at 3:59 PM

I’ll leave the 9-9-9 critiques to the people that understand tax policy; I pay to have mine done. I give Cain credit for at least trying to come up with something better as opposed to our current crop of politicians who are pandering and selling out capitalism to a bunch of smelly unemployable losers.

As far as Cain being a joke; hey Joe..take a look at Barney Frank; Christopher Dodd; Joe Biden. Dinosaurs and morons; perfect examples of what’s wrong in Washington..and they keep getting elected. That’s the joke. I’ll support Cain over those type of people every day of the week.

austinnelly on October 17, 2011 at 4:48 PM

No, to the contrary . . . Scarborough is a phony and a joke. Nobody with any self respect would be employed by MSNBC.

rplat on October 17, 2011 at 6:32 PM

I hope whoever wrote those answers for Cain is replaced soon. They make no sense at all.

Even if we repealed the 16thAmendment and eliminated the income tax, as some demand in return for establishing a consumption tax, politicians could raise that rate too.

Nonsensical. If the income tax was totally removed and now unconstitutional, how exactly would politicians “raise that rate too”?

It does no such thing. It is fair and neutral, taxing everything once and nothing twice.

Well, it exempts capital gains and dividends, which poor and working class do not have much of. In addition, everyone’s savings will get double taxed since we’ve paid high income taxes on that amount already but now get to pay the national sales tax in addition.

AngusMc on October 17, 2011 at 12:59 PM

Do you see the error of your reply?
They could raise the tax rate on consumption. Not raise the rate on the eliminated income tax.

Oxrock on October 17, 2011 at 6:54 PM

Herman Cain is making himself into 999 by talking about it everywhere he goes.

Bill C on October 17, 2011 at 12:44 PM

Oh come off it. Just because you don’t like the way Cain is campaigning doesn’t mean that voting for him = a vote for 9-9-9. If I thought that were really the case, I’d have serious reservations about him, myself.

gryphon202 on October 17, 2011 at 11:29 PM

Even NPR took a fair look at Cain’s plan, as flawed as it might be, and somehow Scarbourough still has an audience, even as small as it may be.

V-rod on October 18, 2011 at 4:21 AM

I find this statement deeply troubling. It focuses on form and ignores impact. A flat sales tax may not be regressive in the narrow sense that the rate doesn’t change relative to income, but it is absolutely regressive in effect when applied to the necessities of life. The tax cost of buying $100 dollars of groceries or medicine is far less as a percentage of available income to a family with an income of $250,000 than it is to a family with an income of $50,000. The impact is profoundly regressive. For people on fixed incomes, like the elderly and the disabled, who pay no income tax, a massive increase is sales taxes would be ruinous.

Cain has a reputation as a straight shooter and a smart guy. It is difficult to reconcile those attributes with a statement that reflects either a deliberate misrepresentation or a failure to grasp a fundamental aspect of taxation.

novaculus on October 17, 2011 at 3:42 PM

Consider this sample limited income person tax burden:
The Current Tax Code vs. Herman Cain’s 999 Plan
Base income
Now = $30000
999 = $32295

Amount spent on non-taxable items = $15000
Amount not spent (put in savings) = $0
Amount donated to charity = $0

999 sales tax rate = 9%
999 income tax rate = 9%

Federal taxes
Sales tax = $1188
Income tax = $2907
Total federal taxes = $4095

999 after tax income = $28200 (9% on the 32K above or $2907)
999 effective tax rate = 12.68% (Assume 17K spent on taxable items @ 9% or $1550)

The 15.3% payroll tax is eliminated under the 999 plan. If you get a paycheck from an employer, then your employer pays half of your payroll taxes behind the scenes. It’s part of your pay that’s hidden from you in the current system. Yes, your take home pay will go up under the 9-9-9 plan by 7.65%. If you checked [yes] on the calculator, it was added to your current income number (which is why the 999 income number is higher).

This 999 calculator can be found at http://www.nerds4cain.com

NOTE: While the calculator is an online script driven, I’m thinking of creating a similar one in Excel to pull in the 2010/2011 1040 basic datapoints to factor in # of dependents EIC etc.

AH_C on October 18, 2011 at 2:13 PM

Well, it exempts capital gains and dividends, which poor and working class do not have much of. In addition, everyone’s savings will get double taxed since we’ve paid high income taxes on that amount already but now get to pay the national sales tax in addition.

AngusMc on October 17, 2011 at 12:59 PM

Look at it this way, the status quo is to tax repeatedly on capital gains/profits. First the corporate, then the investor on dividends. The double taxation is unfair in the first place. If capital is taxed once, then congress has to learn to spend within that “reduced” revenue stream.

The biggest selling point for 999 is visibility. At every point that a tax is extracted, it should be visible to the one paying it. Right now, all W-2 employees are paying a 7.65% tax that they never see. If you don’t see it, it doesn’t “hurt” you. Likewise with payroll deductions, to the employee, that deduction is only an abstract since you never banked it. And if your deductions are calculated correctly, you bank on a refund.

Change that dynamic by eliminating payroll deduction and watch and see if folks are complacent about gathering up enough money to pay the IRS in one lump sum. Once you get used to that, imagine the following year when Congress proposes to jack up your tax rate by another 1%. As soon as Congress raises that trial balloon, how long do you think it will take before the phonelines melt on Capitol Hill? That’s the whole reason for implementing payroll tax withholding – to desensitize Joe tax-payer from acutely feeling tax hikes.

If you don’t believe it, ask the majority of teachers in Wisconsin now that mandatory union deductions have been repealed. Once those teachers got their grubby hands on that money, they realized the cost-benefit of paying dues was nil, hence they kept the money for themselves.

This is how it should be with Congress, they have to CONVINCE us to support a tax hike, not just tack on another percentage point to the withholding while continuing to jack up spending. This alone makes the 999 worth the price of admission.

If anyone still thinks 999 is not right for us, then I strongly encourage you to demand Mittness and the other candidates to campaign on eliminating 1) payroll tax withholding and 2) the employer share of SS (7.65%) while continuing to tinker at the margins of tax reform. Do that and it’ll be a win-win for us taxpayers. But I’ll bet they won’t because their elitist cronies in Congress NEED for you to NOT see nor feel pain at the hidden taxes and inevitable hikes.

AH_C on October 18, 2011 at 2:35 PM

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