Irony? Cain switched from flat tax to consumption tax to avoid ‘exceptions’

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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With news that Rick Perry would propose a flat tax next week — and that Herman Cain may now support some abortion exceptions — I found this 2003 Human Events interview with Cain (he was running for U.S. Senate) to be interesting.

During the interview, Cain seemed to be unfamiliar with a human life amendment. But he ultimately said he supported it:

Do you favor a human life amendment?

CAIN: Explain to me what you mean by the human life amendment.

Well, the human life amendment, which has been in the Republican platform since, I think, 1980, and would go in the United States Constitution, stating just that an unborn child has a right to life from conception.

CAIN: I would support that, stated the way you state it. Yes, I would.

… Cain also addressed the flat tax — which he once supported:

It’s interesting that you favor the consumption tax because that would seem to put you in a different camp from the candidate for President whom you were co-chairman of the campaign for in 1996, Steve Forbes. He advocates the flat tax, and the maintenance of the personal deduction for home mortgage interest.

CAIN: Right. It satisfies certain principles that both of them have in common.  Yes, I supported Steve Forbes​ because, at the time, I thought that the flat tax on income had the best chance for getting traction and beginning to move. Steve Forbes ran his campaign trying to get traction on the flat tax. The reason I supported the flat tax and I can easily support the consumption tax was because in 1995 when I worked with Jack Kemp​ on the Economic Growth and Tax Reform Commission, those were the two solutions that we proposed be considered to solve the problem. We didn’t take sides on one or the other. Being realistic, being pragmatic, because Steve Forbes was running on that one, I could support that. Now that he is not running, and now that [former House Majority Leader​] Dick Armey​ [R.-Tex.] has retired, now that [former vice presidential candidate, Housing secretary and Rep.] Jack Kemp [R.-N.Y.] has retired, we have no one championing the flat tax on income in Congress. We do have movement in Congress with respect to the consumption tax. My life-long objective is for one of those to become the law of the land. The other reason, just purely theoretically, that I now prefer the consumption tax, in addition to its political viability, is the fact that you don’t have to get into exceptions. Because fundamentally, instead of taxing people on what they earn—my dad was penalized for working three jobs—it taxes them on what they spend. He didn’t spend a lot of money, which is why my mother is able to live on what he saved. And that’s the type of unleashing of the economic potential of this country that I’m interested in doing.

Ideally, starting from scratch, you think that the consumption tax is the best way to go.

CAIN: Yes, because you don’t get into debate over what should the exceptions be.

It’s interesting that Cain co-chaired Steve Forbes’ 1996 presidential run. Forbes is now helping Perry craft his flat tax plan — and even predicted it would help Perry “surge ahead of Herman Cain.”

Matt K. Lewis