Time's Altman Notes Herman Cain's 'Steady Rise', But Dismisses Tax Ideas As 'Standard Republican Fare'

June 7th, 2011 11:57 AM

The mainstream media have largely ignored or casually dismissed businessman and radio host Herman Cain's bid for the 2012 Republican nomination.

Not so Time's Alex Altman, who has a generally decent piece today on the magazine's Swampland blog:


While better-known candidates are scuffling in Iowa or planning to skip it altogether, Cain’s courtship of the crucial caucus state’s conservatives is going smoothly. “At the moment, I think he’s one of the front-runners,” says Iowa Tea Party leader Ryan Rhodes....Iowa isn’t the only place Cain is catching on....Cain’s life story is the kind of Horatio Alger yarn voters love....Cain’s caustic challenge to Clinton’s health-care reform plan earned him a measure of fame among conservatives, and Newsweek hailed him as one of the “real saboteurs” of the proposal. (The magazine also hailed him as “articulate,” as Joe Biden’s defenders might point out — and, as in Barack Obama’s case, it’s true.)...His rags-to-riches tale, his business background and his stemwinding oratory have made Tea Partyers swoon.

That said, when it comes to Cain's platform, Altman all but dismisses the candidate's tax policy as unoriginal and self-serving (emphasis mine):

But his economic policies are fairly standard Republican fare. In his first two years in office, he wants to pare the corporate income-tax rate to 25% or lower; eliminate taxes on capital gains and their dividends; suspend taxes on repatriated profits; enact a payroll-tax holiday; make the Bush-era tax rates permanent. He is a self-made man who built a fortune and wants policies that would help him keep it. He backs swapping the income tax for a “Fair Tax,” which is in essence a flat sales tax. He’s also anti-regulation, wants to repeal and replace Obama’s health-care “deform,” as he dubbed it, and supports Paul Ryan’s plan to transform Medicare.

While calls for lower taxes and less regulation are "standard Republican fare," that doesn't mean they aren't pursued in service of improving the economy and reducing the government's drag on the private sector for the good of the American people at large.

What's more, Cain's call for fundamental federal tax reform -- scrapping the income tax and replacing it wholesale with a consumption tax -- is a bold policy stroke that not all Republican primary voters will agree with.

There are fans of a flat income tax and others who would just as well take milder steps at income tax reform, or simply call for new tax cuts and tax credits. These internal debates in the GOP and in conservative circles are unfairly papered over by dismissing the Fair Tax plan as mere "standard Republican fare."

Altman's piece gives Cain's rising star due attention, but mostly by focusing on his charisma and personality. It's a good start, but it could stand improvement.