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Cain's usually wrong, but good for debate

BY ADAM B SULLIVAN | NOVEMBER 30, 2011 7:20 AM

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It looks like Georgia businessman Herman Cain will drop out of the Iowa caucus race soon.

Cain isn't the brains of the party, and he probably wouldn't have ended up the candidate anyway. Still, the race will be worse without him.

Even when Cain is wrong (which he often — well, almost always — is), he at least brings fresh ideas. Most of the other candidates in the race for the Republican presidential nomination are regurgitating ideas that Republicans have been spouting at least since Newt Gingrich was the head of the U.S. House.

The obvious example is Cain's tax plan. He's been mocked and criticized for 9-9-9 — his idea to abolish the current federal tax code and replace it with a 9 percent income-tax, 9 percent corporate-tax, and 9 percent sales-tax. A handful of studies show that would mean higher net taxes for most Americans, and I think most people think that's a bad idea.

But even if the numbers prescribed in Cain's plan aren't the right ones, he's at least offering a drastic change.

Many of the big issues facing the United States are unlikely to be fixed long-term with incremental changes to the current system. Instead, they likely require drastic changes and near-complete overhauls.

The income-tax system, for instance, is clearly broken. We shouldn't have a tax system that requires us to pay highly trained accountants hundreds or thousands of dollars to send our money to the government. Instead, we should have a tax system — and a government at large, for that matter — that regular people can understand and navigate. Cain's 9-9-9 isn't the solution, but it is a good starting point for that discussion.

Cain as an outlier extends beyond tax policy. For instance, he's been quoted as saying poor people are mostly at fault for their fiscal status:

• He said on CNN, "I'm ready for the 'gotcha' questions, and they're already starting to come. And when they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan, I'm going to say, You know, I don't know. Do you know? And then I'm going to say, 'How's that going to create one job?' "

• He said to the Wall Street Journal, "Don't blame Wall Street, don't blame the big banks. If you don't have a job and you are not rich, blame yourself."

• And he told CNN, "African-Americans have been brainwashed into not being open-minded, not even considering a conservative point of view. I have received some of that same vitriol simply because I am running for the Republican nomination as a conservative."

All of those things are probably wrong, but they at least provide something new to think about. The other candidates on the debate stage — except U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and maybe former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman — basically talk about every issue the same way. Nobody offers any real substantive challenge to the others.

If we don't have a Herman Cain in the race, all we have is Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich pushing for what end up being relatively small changes.

Follow Daily Iowan Editor Adam B Sullivan on twitter.


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