Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain heavily referenced his business background as former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza in a discussion at AEI this morning on how to get the economy moving.
Cain, who has been leading the pack of GOP hopefuls in many polls, sat down with AEI’s Kevin Hassett before a packed house to answer questions about his 9-9-9 economic platform.
“In business you develop a solution to the problem; you don’t develop a half solution,” Cain said when expanding upon the differences between businessmen and politicians.
He said that after he took the helm at Godfather’s Pizza, he learned that parent company Pilsbury had decided the pizza chain would go bankrupt. Cain said to overcome this fate, “I went and talked to the people closest to the problem.” That included customers and employees, and the solutions including simplification measures such as eliminating three of four crusts offered.
“We simplified the operation dramatically,” Cain said. “That kind of thinking inspired 9-9-9.”
Two years after taking control of Godfather’s, Cain said he got the full picture of how government regulations can adversely affect business. “I had to contend with all of these external forces,” he said. “I became much more aware of the potential negative impact of government.”
Cain predicted that the business community would rally at simply the possibility that 9-9-9 could become law. “They’re going to get excited that we just might get this thing passed,” he said, predicting that businesses would have growth plans on the table, “ready to pull the trigger.”
“After I’m elected we will begin to work with members of Congress to tee up that legislation,” the candidate said.
“The business community is the engine of economic growth,” he added, noting that his plan would be “fuel for the engine.”
Sharing the credit for his plan—which eliminates the current tax system in favor of a 9 percent personal income tax, a 9 percent corporate income tax, and a 9 percent national sales tax—Cain said “there are [Jack] Kemp’s fingerprints all over 9-9-9.” Cain was an adviser to Kemp when he was the vice presidential candidate.
Cain said his plan can bring together fair tax and flat tax proponents. “Let’s get both of these groups to the table,” he said. “We have now a built-in support for the concept.”
“We want it to be fair—fair according to Webster’s dictionary, not according to Washington,” Cain said.
He expanded upon the fairness concept when asked what role government should have in creating a fair playing field.
“I believe that the government’s role in creating fairness is zero,” Cain said. “When the government steps into picking winners and losers—can we say Solyndra? … Where does it stop?”
He brushed off assertions that his plan mirrored a Value Added Tax (VAT). “It doesn’t matter what you call it,” he said. “The reason why some of my opponents are calling it a VAT is they want to scare people.”
In the realm of fright, Hassett asked Cain which of his GOP opponents he would be for Halloween.
Cain pondered the answer for a while. “I believe I would go as Ron Paul,” he said with a smile.
When asked by an audience member whether his candidacy would have staying power within the GOP, Cain said his grass-roots momentum hasn’t come from the Republican Party.
“The people, not the party,” Cain said. “The people have propelled my candidacy.”
“That’s why this flavor of the week is the flavor of the month and it still tastes good.”