Herman Cain Tax Plan to Be "9-0-9" for the Poor For Those Whose Annual Income is at or Below the Poverty Level, Cain Says the 9 Percent Income Tax Will Disappear COMMENTARY | Presidential hopeful Herman Cain has taken some brutal hits on his "9-9-9 Tax Plan" over the past few weeks. He has especially been targeted for the plan at the last two Republican debates, with his opponents quoting critical economists and think tanks and stating that the Atlanta businessman's flat tax proposal would benefit the wealthy, reduces taxes for corporations, and place an undue burden on the poor. But in Detroit Friday, Cain fired back at his detractors and said that his tax plan would in no way hurt the poor and that those who pay no taxes now would pay no taxes once the 9-9-9 plan went into effect. "If you are at or below the poverty level, your plan isn't 9-9-9 it is 9-0-9," Cain said in his speech, according to CNN. "Say amen y'all. 9-0-9." How did everyone miss that part of the 9-9-9 plan when they rushed to assess it, then criticize it, then basically reject it? As the candidate himself has noted on several occasions, he's still working on the specifics. Apparently, taxing personal income at a 9 percent level (a flat rate for all income tax) is one of the specifics that was being worked on, because exempting those below the poverty level was not mentioned before detractors like the Tax Policy Center exposed that the 9-9-9 plan would raise taxes on 84 percent of Americans and overall taxes on the average American family as much as $2,700 if their annual income fell between $10,000 and $20,000 per year. That equates to a 950 percent increase in the tax burden of those too poor to afford such an increase. Under the revised "9-0-9 Tax Plan," those at or under the poverty level (in 2010, set at $22,314) would be exempt from income taxes. They would still pay the third 9 percent of the tax triad, a national consumer tax on all purchased items. Considering that those same people currently pay a zero percent national consumption tax, the poor will still be paying something under the Cain plan. And as fair as it might sound, relatively speaking, when spendable income is decreased for the poor, it impacts the standard of living far more negatively than when it is decreased for the well-to-do and the wealthy. And what about the overall tax structure, where the 9-9-9 Tax Plan is supposed to replace the "10 million word mess" that is the current progressive tax code? Cain has stated that his tax plan will bring in as much revenue as the current tax system. CNN reported that when their experts crunched the numbers, Cain's tax system brought in $1.77 trillion in annual revenue, whereas the current tax system collects $2.16 trillion. And if one factors in the loss of the those originally counted in the initial Cain plan, those at or below the poverty level that now won't be paying under the revised 9-0-9 plan? Considering that over 40 percent of income earners paid no federal income taxes in 2010, that would be a significant drop in revenue intake for the Cain plan which is already coming up short for what it takes to fund the federal government. Then how many of the programs suffering cutbacks in the current budget would see outright elimination or severely diminished funding due to the shortfall? Entitlement programs, government investment in research, educational programs -- all would see severe cutbacks, costing thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of jobs. Most of the cutbacks affect programs that directly or indirectly benefit the poor working class and those living in poverty. But that was not the message he was sending in Detroit. "Bottom line folks, 9-9-9 means jobs jobs jobs," he said. "Let's renew the economy of this nation." Defunding the federal government, eliminating countless jobs, increasing the tax burden on the poor while decreasing the tax burden for corporations and (relatively) the wealthy -- will somehow renew the economy? It hasn't in the past decade, where the U. S. has experienced two small recessions and a Great Recession. With the exception of those at or below the poverty level to the 9-9-9 Tax Plan, the plan is not truly a flat tax. With other incentive plans and exception rules that Cain has proposed, especially for businesses paying the 9 percent corporate taxes, revenues in other brackets will see diminishment as well. And the more built-in exceptions, incentives, and deductions it acquires, the further from the simple tax plan he promised it gets. Whether it is a 9-9-9 plan or a 9-0-9 plan, candidate Herman Cain's tax plan needs work and lots of it. Perhaps there are a few unemployed economists he could hire to help flesh out his tax plan into something more actionable. Because even though he seems to have hollowed out the middle in an effort to assuage the poverty-stricken and the working class, the entire tax plan rings a bit hollow as a system that could actually work.