Amidst the risible conspiracy theory that Herman Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan was actually cribbed from the video game SimCity 4, and not the Chileans (which for some reason makes me think of Dark Side of the Rainbow), Electronic Arts has shrewdly decided to capitalize on 9-9-9 madness by, for a limited time, lowering the prices of SimCity games on its website to $9.99, an effective ten-dollar discount. The company also released a video (which looks like it was created by the famous Taiwanese animators), which highlights the resemblance of Cain's plan to the default tax rates of SimCity 4.
Cain's catchy 9-9-9 plan also might put one in mind of Steve Forbes' old flat-tax proposal in which he promised voters that tax returns would fit on a postcard, back when he was running for president in the '90s. The simplicity of these ideas is initially appealing, but when you drill down, they become much less appealing.
For instance, Cain's 9% tax on personal income, business income, and all commercial activity (a 9% tax on a haircut?) would end up being a a mammoth tax cut for the rich and corporations, and a large tax increase for the middle class, the elderly, and the disabled. The richest 1% would pay an average of $210,000 less a year, while the poorest 60% would pay an average of $2,000 more.
Again, eliminating Social Security in favor of private accounts might at first blush look attractive, but keep in mind, Argentina and Peru tried the Chilean model (or "Sim 4 model" if you like), then, because of public dissatisfaction, changed their laws to go back to the old public-pension systems.
As the feared Grover Norquist, president of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform, said on Monday:
"I'm very concerned about three different taxes — every one of them can grow. To put tapeworms in your tummy to try and maintain your weight — they may have their own idea about their growth patterns and what they want to do. Creating new taxes is a very dangerous project."