Cain wants to replace all taxes in the current code with three flat taxes of 9 percent each on individual income, corporate income, and purchases.
And therein lies the rub. As Santorum said on Tuesday:
" You know, Mitt, I don't want to go to a trade war. I want to beat China. I want to go war with China and — and make America the most attractive place in the world to do business, and we need to do that with the agenda that I outlined, which, unlike Herman's plan, which could not pass, because no — how many people here are for a sales tax in New Hampshire? Raise your hand. There you go, Herman. That's how many votes you'll get in New Hampshire.
MR. SANTORUM: You know, we're not going to — we're not going to give the — we're not going to give the federal government, Nancy Pelosi, a new pipeline, a 9 percent sales tax, for consumers to get hammered by the federal government. How many people believe that we'll keep the income tax at 9 percent? Anybody? There. There's — that's why people won't trust —
On Wednesday, Santorum countered with his "0-0-0 "program," because " when it comes to taxes, zero is better than nine."
The press is starting to scrutinize Cain's 9-9-9 program much closer as well.
In the U.K. Daily Mail, reporter Diana Furchtgott-Roth writes that a sales tax would work like a VAT, or Value-Added Tax does in Europe:
As the tax rises, countries with sales taxes spend considerable time and energy dividing consumption between that which is subject to the tax and that which is not.
It’s politically unrealistic in the United States to expect that a sales tax would be a substitute for the income tax, so it would end up being an additional levy, one that enlarges the government’s claim on the rest of the economy.
Another problem with a national sales tax is that it interferes with states’ sales tax collections. Now, the sales tax is the province of the states, who use it to generate revenue.
Adding a 9 percent sales tax on top of a state sales tax would reduce states’ freedom to use sales taxes because it would reduce revenue.
University of Michigan economics professor James Hines jokes that America doesn’t have consumption taxes because Democrats think they hurt poor people and Republicans think they make raising revenue too easy, encouraging spending.
Rachelle Bernstein, a vice president and tax counsel at lobbyist group National Retail Federation, said "An additional tax on consumer spending will negatively impact that already weak demand."
Cain Tuesday night that Congress would only be able to change the plan with a 2/3rds vote.
The former Godfather's Pizza CEO received more scrutiny Wednesday morning on MSNBC, when he was questioned about an article he wrote in 2005 arguing that the housing bubble wouldn't burst.
"Yeah, I missed some of these things. I’m not perfect.”
The GOP candidate said he wouldn’t repeat the mistake. “I will have people around me who are going to help me do deeper analyses on some of these things,” he said.
Cain better get used to intense coverage. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll has him leading Mitt Romney nationally, 27 to 23 percent.