How Cain can improve his 9-9-9 plan

Doug Kellogg Comm. Manager, National Taxpayers Union
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Presidential candidate Herman Cain has made his now-famous 9-9-9 tax plan the centerpiece of his campaign platform. This overhaul of the tax code, along with several others from his GOP rivals, recognizes that compliance and complexity are major hurdles for taxpayers and are damaging to the economy.

However, Cain’s plan has come under fire because of concerns that imposing a new national sales tax while maintaining two other revenue pipelines would prove too enticing for big government, and rates would increase over time. The National Taxpayers Union has echoed these concerns in the past, which is why plans like the Fair Tax would completely repeal the 16th Amendment before imposing a national sales tax.

Some added pressure now comes from the Perry campaign’s flat tax plan, which includes a call for a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution requiring a two-thirds majority vote for any tax increases.

Herman Cain (not to mention other presidential candidates) can make use of many methods to protect taxpayers, one of which has up to this point received short shrift on the national level: a requirement that any tax increase be approved by a majority of voters. States like Nevada, Colorado, Missouri and Florida have already put such measures to the test, and a federal version would serve as a fitting guard to 9-9-9’s back door.

The National Taxpayers Union has urged Herman Cain, in a letter to his campaign, to consider adopting such a voter-approval mechanism. What better way to protect the American people from revenue-hungry politicians than giving them the power to veto tax hikes? A requirement for voter approval of any increase in tax rates, with an exception for war, would be another blow to special interest deal-making in Congress.

Such a measure would give taxpayers greater confidence that Washington’s special interest mill will not churn out higher rates if Cain’s plan is adopted. Other details of Cain’s plan still require examination, but a requirement that voters approve tax increases would be a worthy addition to an economic policy intended to weather the storm of out-of-control spending and debt.

Critics are right to be wary of giving the federal government further opportunities to tax. Certainly, history has taught us that ending even “temporary” tax increases is a tremendous challenge. Concerns over the 9-9-9 plan offering an opportunity for tax increases should serve to make us more aware of the risks we already face under present laws. Citizens should fight to institute balanced-budget controls and voter-approval requirements at the local, state and federal levels to keep government’s ability to tax and spend in check.

Whether it’s our current system, 9-9-9 or some other plan yet to be revealed on the campaign trail, the absence of such taxpayer protections leaves our wallets at the mercy of political interests.

Doug Kellogg is the communications manager for the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union.