My new piece, right here, explains where Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan came from, and why Republicans are actually having some trouble convincing their base not to cheer for it. An excerpt:
Every 16 years, every time a rebuilt Republican Party is trying to unseat a Democratic president, it has to deal with some existential new tax reform concept. In 1980, Ronald Reagan ran on a supply-side tax cut devised by economists that Washington didn’t respect and that was derided by the man who eventually became Reagan’s vice president. In 1995, magazine tycoon Steve Forbes entered the Republican primaries and spent about $60 million to push one message: The country should have a flat tax rate, no deductions, on income above $36,000. “The flat tax is simply a means to an end to enable people to keep more of what they earn,” he said, “remove barriers to investment, so the economy can grow.”
This is basically what Cain is promising now. Reagan won. Forbes didn’t. Cain probably won’t win. And yet all three plans evolved from similar-looking piles of primordial goop. Reagan’s tax plan followed the 1978 taxpayer’s revolt in California. Forbes’ plan—admittedly, a version of an idea that had been kicking around think tanks and the Jerry Brown campaign—followed on the 1994 GOP landslide. Cain’s plan, a remix of the 12-year-old “Fair Tax,” is taking off for the same reason he became a viable candidate in the first place: The Tea Party, having taken over the Republican Party, wants to keep the revolution going.