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Cain has a tax issue with women, too

Posted: November 11, 2011 1:41 p.m.
Updated: November 14, 2011 5:00 a.m.

When I first heard Herman Cain call his tax plan "9-9-9," it sounded like something I might have heard a fraulein tell me years ago when I was a GI in Germany: "Nein, nein, nein!"

After recent news developments with the top-tier Republican presidential hopeful, "9-9-9" sounds like a German translation of something Sharon Bialek might have told him in 1997 -- "No, no, no!"

That's when the Chicago woman says Cain tried to coerce her into performing a sex act in exchange for his help in landing a job while he ran the National Restaurant Association. Cain ferociously denies her charges -- and those of three unnamed women reported earlier by Politico.

Whichever way Cain's sexual harassment headache winds up, it takes attention away from his other big "woman problem": His tax plan would cost working women overall more than it would cost their male counterparts.

Because women are disproportionately likely to be single parents and to have lower wages, smaller pensions and more medical problems, according the census, Social Security Administration and Kaiser Family Foundation, among other researchers, they have more reasons to give a "nein" to Cain's 9-9-9.

Herman Cain's plan calls for a 9 percent "national sales tax," a 9 percent "business flat tax" and a 9 percent "individual flat tax." He would eliminate the current individual income tax, corporate income tax, payroll tax, and estate and gift tax.

But an analysis by the Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, finds two big problems. One, it wouldn't raise as much revenue as the current system, despite it claim that it would be "revenue neutral." And, two, it would result in a big tax cut for high-earning Americans and a big average tax increase for everyone else.

A middle income household making between about $64,000 and $110,000 would get hit with an average tax increase of about $4,300, the center says. That would increase its average federal tax rate (including income, payroll, estate and its share of the corporate income tax) from 18.8 percent to 23.7 percent.

That could have a particularly painful impact on women since, Cain's proposal would the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. Both offer tax breaks to lower-income earners who tend disproportionately to be female.

Yet, Cain argues that his bean counters are right and that those at the Washington-based think tank are wrong. Besides, he points out, 9-9-9 is just a proposal and "We can always tweak it." Sure. But, tweaked or not, your initial proposal shows how much regard you have for fairness in your overall fiscal policy.

Women make up 49 percent of the total workforce but represent 59 percent of low-wage workers, according to an October report on the gender gap by the Government Accountability Office. And single women with children had an average household income of about $27,000, the GAO says.

The gender gap results from many causes, but since more women than men finish high school and earn bachelor's degrees, it is hard to argue that women are lazy. That's why Cain's recent statement that "If you're not rich, it's your own fault" probably didn't do much to help his own appeal to single moms.

As an alternative, Texas Gov. Rick Perry tries to have things both ways. He would offer us taxpayers a choice between filing our taxes under the current tax code or under a new 20 percent "flat tax." Unfortunately, he, too, would have trouble raising as much revenue as the current system.

And, politically, the appeal of Perry's and Cain's proposals both fade as they ask us to sit down and compare their plans to the existing code. It is our hope as taxpayers of avoiding the headache of figuring out our taxes that makes their plans appealing in the first place.

More paperwork? Nein!

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