The Reticulating Splines of Herman Cain's 9-9-9 Plan

Yesterday I braved thundering waves of  ignorance to examine Herman Cain’s own very well reasoned opposition to one-third of his 9-9-9 Plan on these pages less than a year ago. As far as I can tell the defense fell into three categories: 1) Herman Cain is our POINT GUARD!!1!1! and you’re a stinking RINO if you don’t know that, 2) Herman Cain speaks in parables and despite what he said you are misinterpreting what he meant as mere humans often do and, 3) I can’t be bothered to read either his old op-ed or the post on the subject because a national sales tax is not a VAT.


Even people who had recommended his op-ed when it appeared last year condemned the substance of that op-ed yesterday. That was then, this is now.

Today’s burning question is: Did Herman Cain get his 9-9-9 plan from the default resource settings on SimCity?

I like computer simulations as well as the next guy. I haven’t played Sim-Anything for about 10 years but I do enjoy Civilization on occasion… when my wife isn’t around. I wouldn’t, however, base my foreign or economic policy on anything I learned from that game were I running for higher office.

Yesterday, HuffPo’s Amanda Terkel (yes, I will use this as a source because it is the source and I’m a stinking RINO Romney supporter) posted a story entitled: Herman Cain 999 Plan: Did It Come From SimCity? In my view, the answer is no and Jon Huntsman probably got closer to the truth than anyone will admit, but let’s see how this story started.

WASHINGTON — In Herman Cain’s America, the tax code would be very, very simple: The corporate income tax rate would be 9 percent, the personal income tax rate would be 9 percent and the national sales tax rate would be 9 percent.

But there’s already a 999 plan out there, in a land called SimCity.

Long before Cain was running for president and getting attention for his 999 plan, the residents of SimCity 4 — which was released in 2003 — were living under a system where the default tax rate was 9 percent for commercial taxes, 9 percent for industrial taxes and 9 percent for residential taxes. (That is, of course, if you didn’t use the cheat codes to get unlimited money and avoid taxes altogether.)


The game’s publisher, Electronic Arts, is predictably psyched and for a limited time they will sell SimCity for $9.99 in honor of Herman Cain’s plan, a savings of $10.

Herman Cain is predictably not amused:

“It’s an original idea, and to people who say it’s modeled after a game — it’s a lie,” Cain said during a campaign stop in Tennessee. “That’s all I’m going to say. It is a lie. You see, that’s the difference when you become one or two in the polls. People make up stuff. That is a lie. I’m not going to take it back and not going to politically say, but unfortunately, that is not totally true. It’s a lie.”

Did he mention that the story is a lie? I missed that, but he should have called it a lie.

So how did the plan originate? We simply don’t know. Herman Cain has declined to say who his advisers are on foreign policy, economic policy, or any policy whatsoever.

“They have their own independent businesses, and I don’t want to compromise their confidentiality at this point,” Cain told host Chris Wallace. “When they tell me it is OK to mention their names publicly, I will mention it.”

Though Cain’s been unwilling to reveal the names of his advisers, he has held up the 9-9-9 plan as a model of transparency. On stage at the debate on Tuesday, Cain repeated a favorite line, that one of the steps to problem solving he often boasts is to “surround yourself with the right people.”

Cain also said on Tuesday that he had two potential nominees to appoint as Federal Reserve chairman, but he refused to name them, either.

“I got to keep them confidential,” Cain said.


At it’s best this is a dodge. When this is combined with a response such as Mr. Cain gave to Jon Huntsman in the last debate, a statement notable for being virtually free of any semblance of factual accuracy (9-9-9 probably won’t pass; it is the price of pizza somewhere; it has been neither well studied or well developed; it doesn’t throw out the current tax code because it retains the personal and corporate income tax; there is no evidence that the American people want to see the price of milk increase by 9% or their home mortgage deduction disappear or social security and medicare to be defunded; and Jon Huntsman is a former governor, not a senator):

“9-9-9 will pass, and it is not the price of a pizza, because it has been well-studied and well-developed,” said Cain, the former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza, who is credited with turning around the business when it was failing in the late 1980s.  “It starts with, unlike your proposals, throwing out the current tax code. And it will pass, senator, because the American people want it to pass.”

one starts to question Mr. Cain’s candor.

The only person we know who was involved in developing the 9-9-9 Plan is a Mr. Rich Lowrie. Even though Mr. Cain claimed Mr. Lowrie was an economist:

“My advisers come from the American people. Now, I will have some experts. One of my experts that helped me to develop this is a gentleman by the name of Rich Lowrie out of Cleveland, Ohio,” Cain said during the debate. “He is an economist, and he has worked in the business of wealth creation most of his career.”


As we now know, Mr. Lowrie is an accountant by training and is currently a “wealth manager” employed by Wells Fargo who was formerly on the board of directors of the third party. There may or may not be actual economists working on this plan but at first blush it seems very unlikely. Does this mean the plan won’t work? Not necessarily but if we’re going to be expected to believe that it will work it would be nice to know who, in addition to some rich guy’s private banker, helped develop it.

If Mr. Cain is not just a bored rich guy who is now acting like the dog that finally caught the car, he needs to get serious. The more we know about his selection of advisers the more the Cain campaign resembles something run by the seat of its pants. Mr. Lowrie is an accountant. His chief foreign policy and defense adviser, Jeffrey Gordon, is a career Navy public affairs officer who has moved on lobbying. We need to know who his advisers are and we need to have some discussion on how his plans were developed. And it would be nice to know that before the first caucus or primary.



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