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October 21. 2011 8:25PM

Politico: Cain redefines 9-9-9 plan


 
Herman Cain's “9-9-9” plan is getting a face-lift.

The former Godfather's Pizza CEO on Friday redefined the proposal that has become a focal point of the GOP nominating contest, backing off of his no-exemption policy.

Cain said Friday that businesses that invested in “opportunity zones” could earn exemptions as a way to elevate struggling neighborhoods and entire cities like Detroit, where he spoke Friday near the vacant Michigan Central Station.

“I believe in empowering cities to help themselves. Empowering individuals to help themselves. This is not an entitlement program. The cities will have to step up and remove some of the barriers that in their city limits,” he said. “If the cities do what they have to do, they will get additional benefits.”

He also suggested that families living below the poverty line would be subject to a different tax bracket, saying their plan “isn't 9-9-9, it's 9-0-9.”

Cain's new spin on his provocative 9-9-9 plan comes in the wake of several attacks on the plan by his rivals for the GOP nomination, who were sharply critical of his proposal to replace the federal tax code with a 9 percent corporate tax, 9 percent personal income tax and a 9 percent national sales tax.

The Washington-based, non-partisan Tax Policy Center concluded that Cain's plan would raise taxes on more than 80 percent of American households, despite his claim that U.S. households would see their taxes cut.

Cain has since disputed that analysis, and said Friday that the changes he revealed in Detroit were always part of his plan. His opponents, he said, simply hadn't read it.

In the speech, Cain dismissed the plan's critics as na´ve.

“Some people thing there's just pepperoni between these two ears, but I used to work doing economic analyses,” Cain said, referencing his tenure as business analysis director for the Pilsbury Corporation.

Cain, who has been criticized for concealing the identities of advisers, including those who helped create the 9-9-9 plan, was joined on stage by Rich Lowrie, the Ohio accountant who serves as his chief economic adviser.

Niger Innis, who advised Cain on the opportunity zones, introduced him. Cain's plan, Innis said, “has forever changed the economic landscape” of America.

Cain's Detroit speech is one of few substantive policy addresses the Atlanta businessman has given. On Saturday, he will make his first trip to Iowa since the Ames Straw Poll for an Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition dinner in Des Moines.

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POLITICO and the New Hampshire Union Leader are sharing content for the 2012 presidential campaign.

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