Herman Cain & Principle

Obviously, I’ve been impressed by Herman Cain, or I wouldn’t spend so much time talking about him. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize the potential problems with his candidacy. He’s going to have to be more careful with what he says, now that everyone is ready to play “gotcha” with any slip of the tongue. They did the same thing with Reagan back in the 1980 election. They called him just a grade-B movie actor, someone who didn’t have any foreign policy experience, and even a dimwit. Looking back now, that’s all pretty laughable.

For Cain to sidestep those “gotcha” moments, he can’t say things like he would trade all the prisoners at Gitmo for one U.S. soldier taken hostage. He also can’t joke about an electric fence on the border that can kill anyone who tries to climb it. The first one he took back immediately, once he realized his mistake. The second he backtracked on to the extent that he noted it was a joke, but that he still believes we need to take border security more seriously.

Yet, compared to all the other candidates for the Republican nomination, he has shown a lot more courage of conviction when it comes to tackling the current tax code mess and the need to promote economic growth. I’m quite aware that there has been a critique of his 9-9-9 plan that says people will pay more under that plan. Others disagree with that analysis. It’s the same old story—find two economists, get three opinions.

Let’s assume for a moment that the critics are correct. I still like the outline of what he is offering. Why? It deals with principle. Cain wants to move us to a Fair Tax that eliminates the income tax forever. His 9-9-9 is just the first step toward that. That makes him the only candidate who is challenging the idea that the government can take money from your paycheck even before you see it. The roots of the progressive income tax [the more you make, the greater percentage you pay] is found in the Communist Manifesto. Marx and Engels promoted it as a way to redistribute income from those who have to those who don’t have as much. In other words, it’s not really your money; the government has first claim on it.

I liken Cain’s approach to the original Tea Party—you know, the one in Boston back in 1773—where those who opposed the landing of the tea did so on principle. That tea actually was less expensive than before, but the tax on it was placed there without any representation on the part of the colonists. They had no say in it. So even though the tea was cheaper, they rejected it on principle. The corollary? Even though I may [and that is disputable] pay a little more in taxes with the 9-9-9 plan, at least it moves us closer to wiping out the income tax altogether. Then we will pay taxes only on what we choose to purchase. We get all the money we earn in our paychecks, and then decide how much of it we want to part with. The principle is that the money really is yours to begin with.

If we can establish that, we will have taken a major step in the direction of our original constitutional understanding.

It’s coming down to this on the Republican side: either Mitt Romney or the non-Romney will be nominated. None of the other candidates, in my view, have a realistic chance of snaring the prize, except for Cain. So what does the Republican party want—someone who gave us the precursor to Obamacare and who is suspect on issues from the environment to abortion, or someone who wishes to chart a course for greater economic freedom?

For me, the decision is not difficult.