Among the news items making the headlines this week was the story that Herman Cain, the former pizza guru and Kansas City FED head, had once again surged in the polls, mounting a significant challenge (at least by polling indicators) to the media's anointed frontrunners, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released last week found that 27% of likely Republican voters would vote for Cain, compared to 23% for Romney and 16% for Governor Perry.
The Christian Science Monitor, the always intriguing source of news and opinion, reported on Oct. 15 that, according to a recent regulatory filing, Cain raised a meager $2.8 million last quarter, as compared to Perry's staggering $17 million and Romney's impressive $14 million. Despite this noticeable (and profound) discrepancy in money raised, Cain still managed to experience a jolt in the polls. But why?
The CSMonitor credits Cain's "9-9-9 Plan" for the jolt. His plan received some attention during one of the recent Republican debates and, as of late, Cain has focused an increasing amount of attention to his plan and his desire to reform the U.S. tax system. The American people, at least since 1913 and the ratification of the 16th amendment, have maintained an interesting relationship to the tax system. During every major presidential election since, tax and, more to the point, tax reform has been among the debated topics. Cain joins the ranks of Steve Forbes and Ron Paul, Repub candidates--either current or past--who have desired to overhaul our unjust tax system.
As I noted in a previous blog post, I am compelled to affix some responsibility for his surge on his plan, but I am reluctant to affix complete responsibility. With that said, the CSMonitor does have a point: there is an appeal to the relative simplicity of Cain's "9-9-9 plan": 9% tax on business income, 9% tax on personal income, and 9% federal sales tax. Out goes the nearly incomprehensible IRS tax code and in comes Cain's plan. I welcome reform efforts aimed at dismantling our current tax system, but I do not feel Cain's plan goes far enough.
BTW: Paul's proposal for addressing the income tax and IRS should be receiving more attention. But, to afford it more attention would mean to acknowledge Paul and, golly gee, the media cannot do that.
On Friday, the CSMonitor also published an article on Perry's proposal for drastically improving the U.S. economy: three words, "domestic energy production." It is an interesting approach on two-fronts. One, if successful, it may just revitalize his campaign (just as he hopes it will improve the economy); and two, reintroduce the idea of utilizing our domestic resources for energy purposes.
The article framed his approach as "Drill, baby, drill"--a three word slogan that brings a smile to my face. The approach--whether employing the slogan or not--deals a one-two punch: it challenges the Obama administration and their EPA regulatory measures; and helps Perry court both business and fiscal conservatives and many Americans who are worried about the state of the economy.
Perry's proposal would enable firms to drill for oil in ANWR in Alaska, as well as "open the eastern Gulf of Mexico and US Atlantic to both exploration and drilling. The plan, Perry contended, would create some 1.2 million new US jobs. At a time when the national unemployment rate hovers around 9%, 1.2 million new US jobs would be a welcomed addition. Perry noted that the "best part" is that most of this could be accomplished through executive order, free of traditional congressional gridlock.
Will Perry's plan jumpstart his floundering campaign and curb Cain's surge? The answer is unclear but one this is for sure: the economy remains front and center in public consciousness.