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Crawford: Cain is shaking up GOP race
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Nothing illustrates the unconventional nature of this election cycle better than the presidential campaign of Georgia's own favorite son, Herman Cain.

I guess I should have added an exclamation point to that last sentence and referred to him as "Herman Cain!" to keep it consistent with the title of his new biography, "This is Herman Cain!"

Cain is a walking exclamation point in American politics, an aggressive burst of energy who has climbed to a strong position among voters likely to participate in the Republican presidential primaries. To paraphrase the play "Death of a Salesman," the impeccably groomed Cain has come a long way on "a shoeshine and a smile."

He is an entertaining politician because he's willing to say anything, no matter how outrageous, if he thinks his audience wants to hear it. If too many people object to what he said, Cain will then insist it was all a joke, at the same time adding he really wants to do it anyway.

We saw this quality a few weeks ago when Cain appeared at a tea party rally in Tennessee and declared he would put up an electrified fence along the Mexican border to kill anyone who tried to enter this country illegally.

"It's going to be 20 feet high," Cain vowed. "It's going to have barbed wire on the top. It's going to be electrified. And there's going to be a sign on the other side saying, ‘It will kill you — Warning.'"

There were some who thought that was a bit much, including Hispanic conservatives who had been Republicans but announced they were now switching parties.

Cain came back quickly and said the remark about electrocuting immigrants was just a joke, then went on: "I don't apologize for using a combination of a fence. And it might be electrified. I'm not walking away from that. I just don't want to offend anyone."

The contradictions that highlight Cain's candidacy can also be seen in his catchy tax proposal that he calls the "9-9-9" plan. He wants to eliminate the current federal tax system and replace it with a flat 9 percent personal income tax, a 9 percent corporate income tax, and a 9 percent sales tax.

This revision of the tax code would boost the economy overnight, Cain contends, summing it up succinctly: "Nine, nine, nine. Jobs, jobs, jobs."

Cain's plan has been very popular among the conservatives and tea party activists who flock to his campaign appearances, but you wonder how many of them have thought through what would happen if Cain actually enacted that 9-9-9 proposal.

Economists and financial analysts who have run the numbers on Cain's plan say it would actually result in higher taxes for more than 80 percent of Americans. The ones who would benefit from lower taxes are those in the highest income brackets.

If your annual income is more than $200,000, your taxes would be a little lower under the Cain plan. If your annual income exceeds $1 million, your taxes would be a lot lower.

There is also this to consider: Most Georgia consumers already pay a 7 percent state sales tax on the products they purchase. If you add the 9 percent sales tax that is part of Cain's plan, your total sales tax on every purchase would go up to 16 percent. If you bought a car with a list price of $25,000, you'd be charged $4,000 in sales tax at the time of the purchase.

I've been told that the "tea" in tea party stands for "taxed enough already." Some of my tea party friends are going bonkers over a presidential candidate whose economic plan would mean higher federal taxes for the great majority of them as well as a 16 percent sales tax on their purchases.

Cain is an energetic guy who's a compelling speaker and knows how to get a crowd fired up. He also is proposing to raise the taxes of most of the people who turn out for his campaign events so that millionaires can get a tax break.

It's a strange way to run for president, but these are strange and desperate times for many Americans. Herman Cain may be just what a lot of people are looking for.

Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report, an internet news service that reports on government and politics in Georgia. His column appears Wednesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com.

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