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NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript


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Mr. Cain, welcome to MEET THE PRESS.

MR. CAIN: David, I'm delighted to be here.

MR. GREGORY: Your big idea is to throw out the tax code.

MR. CAIN: Yes.

MR. GREGORY: Tax reform is a way to create jobs and spur economic growth.

MR. CAIN: Yes.

MR. GREGORY: The reality of the 9-9-9 plan is this, I'll put it up on the screen, it is to have a 9 percent corporate income tax, 9 percent personal income tax, 9 percent sales tax. Everything else is gone.

MR. CAIN: Yes.

MR. GREGORY: The reality of the plan is that some people pay more, some people pay less. This is how The Washington Post reported it on Friday, we'll put it up on the screen. "Experts see surprise in Cain's 9-9-9 plan. The `9-9-9' plan that has helped propel businessman Cain to the front of the GOP presidential field would stick many poor and middle-class people with a hefty tax increase while cutting taxes for those at the top, tax analysts say. ...

"Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, is working on an analysis of Cain's signature proposal. Although the plan's details remain sketchy, Williams said it would increase taxes for the poor and middle class, despite Cain's statements to the contrary.

"For starters, about 30 million of the poorest households pay neither income taxes nor Social Security or Medicare levies. `So for them,'" he says, "`doing away with the payroll tax doesn't save anything. And you are adding both a 9 percent sales tax and 9 percent income tax. So we know they will be worse off.'" That's the reality, Mr. Cain. Without making a judgment about it, why do you think that's an acceptable reality for the overall goal of reform?

MR. CAIN: First, they're missing one very critical point about the sales tax. It wasn't even mentioned in that analysis that you read. On the price of goods, there are invisible taxes that are built into everything we buy. We'll simply--those invisible taxes are going to go away. And we're replacing them with a 9 percent visible tax. For example, take a loaf of bread. The farmer pays taxes on his profits. The company that makes the flour, the baker, the delivery man. By the time that loaf of bread gets to the grocery store, there are a series of invisible taxes, which are also called embedded taxes. So, in reality, those taxes go away and so the price of goods don't go up.

MR. GREGORY: You're saying they actually go down?

MR. CAIN: Yes, they actually go down.

MR. GREGORY: Based on what?

MR. CAIN: Based upon competition. Competition drives prices down. For example, suppose one breadmaker says, "I'm going to charge $2.20 for a loaf of bread," and the other one says he's going to charge $2.40 for a loaf of bread. Well, guess which one is going to win out based upon the quality being essentially the same?

MR. GREGORY: My question had to do, however, with the reality of this plan.

MR. CAIN: Mm-hmm.

MR. GREGORY: The wealthiest Americans would pay less, the poorest Americans and middle class would pay more. You don't dispute that.

MR. CAIN: I do dispute that. You are making--you and others are making assumptions about what wealthy Americans would do with their money, and you're making assumptions about what the middle class and the poor. You can't predict the behavior. If wealthy Americans...

MR. GREGORY: This isn't about behavior, Mr. Cain, this is about whether you pay--if you don't pay taxes now, and you now have income tax and a sales tax, you pay more in taxes.

MR. CAIN: More people will pay less in taxes. More people will pay less in taxes when you consider all the taxes.

MR. GREGORY: Mr. Cain, we talked to independent analysts ourselves.

MR. CAIN: Yes.

MR. GREGORY: We're not just reading newspaper clips here.

MR. CAIN: Understand.

MR. GREGORY: They tell us, they've looked at this, based on what's available of the plan, and it's incontrovertible.

MR. CAIN: David...

MR. GREGORY: People--there are people who will pay more.

MR. CAIN: That's right. Some people will pay more, but most people would pay less is my argument.

MR. GREGORY: Who will pay more?

MR. CAIN: Who will pay more? The people who spend more money on new goods. The sales tax only applies to people who buy new goods, not used goods. That's a big difference that doesn't come out.

MR. GREGORY: For those 30 million Americans who don't pay income tax...

MR. CAIN: Mm-hmm.

MR. GREGORY: ...including 16 million elderly Americans, you can see they would, in fact, pay more.

MR. CAIN: Not the elderly. That's two different groups. Let's talk about the elderly. You don't pay taxes on your Social Security income. It replaces the tax--the capital gains tax. Many of the elderly make money off of their investments. They won't pay that. Tax on dividends and tax on income generated from investments, you only pay once. So, in that sense, it helps the elderly.

MR. GREGORY: The other defect in the plan comes from fellow conservatives who say, "You've got some problems here." This is what The Wall Street Journal said about it this past week. "The real political defect," the Journal writes, "of the Cain plan is that it imposes a new national sales tax while maintaining the income tax. Mr. Cain's rates are seductively low, but the current income tax was introduced in 1913 with a top rate of 7 percent amid promises that it would never exceed 10 percent. By 1918 the top rate was 77 percent. The politics of a national sales tax is bad enough on its own. A 9 percent rate when combined with state and local levies would mean a tax on goods of 17 percent or more in many places. The cries for exemptions would be great."

MR. CAIN: Don't combine it with state taxes. This doesn't address state taxes. If you add them together, yes, you'll get that number. This is a replacement structure. These are replacement taxes. They're not on top of anything.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. CAIN: We replace capital gains tax. We replace the payroll tax. We replace corporate income tax, replace personal income tax, and replace the death tax. It is a replacement tax structure.
MR. GREGORY: But where do state taxes go? You're saying they're going to be repealed?

MR. CAIN: If you--with the current structure, you have state taxes, right? So with this new structure, you're still going to have taxes--state taxes. That is muddying the water.

MR. GREGORY: How so?

MR. CAIN: Because today, under the current tax code, state taxes are there if they have it. If they don't have a state taxes, they don't have it. It has nothing to do with this replacement structure for the federal tax code.

MR. GREGORY: But that doesn't make any sense to me. If I'm already paying state taxes, and I have a new Cain administration national sales tax, I've got more state taxes.

MR. CAIN: No you don't.

MR. GREGORY: How so?

MR. CAIN: David, David.

MR. GREGORY: You're not saying they're going away.

MR. CAIN: Your state taxes are the same. Your federal taxes, in most cases, are going to go down. That's muddying the water.

MR. GREGORY: The Wall Street Journal says you have one on top of the other. There's a combined levy.

MR. CAIN: That is not correct, David.


MR. CAIN: Let's try this one more time. State taxes are there today. The current tax code is a 10 million word mess. You have probably 100--you have thousands of loopholes and tricks and what I call "sneak attaxes" in the current code. State taxes today, whatever they are, zero or some number, has nothing to do with replacing the tax code. Nothing.

MR. GREGORY: The godfather, forgive the term, of tax reform in this town, Grover Norquist, said at this point he would advise Republicans to vote no on 9-9-9, and the reason is he doesn't like new revenue streams. And that's what you're creating with a sales tax.

MR. CAIN: Well, in the current tax code, there are sneak attaxes and ways that the American people get taxed that we don't even know about. What 9-9-9 does, it makes it very visible, so that the American people can hold the feet of Congress to the fire. That's the thing that we have that the current tax code does not have.

MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about political reality.

MR. CAIN: Yes.

MR. GREGORY: Speaker of the House John Boehner has talked about how difficult tax reform would be at this particular juncture. There is a debate going on about tax reform.

MR. CAIN: Yes.

MR. GREGORY: There is no agreement right now between Republicans and Democrats about changing marginal rates. That's step one in 9-9-9.

MR. CAIN: Yes.

MR. GREGORY: Let alone the end of the process. How do you get it passed?

MR. CAIN: The following way, here's how we get it passed. First, throw out the current tax code. Secondly, because the American people understand it, the American people are embracing it. See, this is the problem that some people inside Washington have with 9-9-9. The American people understand it. The American people are embracing it such that when I have this legislation--ask Congress to introduce this legislation, the American people will understand it, and they are going to demand it. That's how we get it passed.

MR. GREGORY: So is your slogan going to be hope and change?

MR. CAIN: No. No.

MR. GREGORY: When it comes to 9-9-9?

MR. CAIN: No. It's not...

MR. GREGORY: But how do you, how do you--I mean, look, we've had presidents, President Bush came to town...

MR. CAIN: Right.

MR. GREGORY: ...saying he could change the politics here, could change the way of doing business. President Obama said the same thing. What I suggested is that, according to our leadership right now, there is an intractable difference about lowering marginal rates. Now, you're saying you can build support to throw out the entire tax code.

MR. CAIN: Yes, that's what I'm saying.

MR. GREGORY: Based on what?

MR. CAIN: Based upon the...

MR. GREGORY: How do you do it?

MR. CAIN: Hey, David, based upon the many speeches I've given, when I talk to people. I've been out there talking to voters. That's what. Look, ultimately they want to get--they're going to listen to their constituency. The assumption is they're not going to listen to the people. There is a huge amount of public support for 9-9-9. Just talk to anybody. This is what's going to help us get it passed, the public support.

Now here's one other thing that I'm doing differently than maybe...

MR. GREGORY: You--well, I'm just trying--want to break that down. So you're acknowledging this morning, which I haven't heard you do before, that there are individuals who are going to pay more in taxes.

MR. CAIN: There are some, yes.

MR. GREGORY: And you think those people are going to rally around tax reform where the wealthy play***(as spoken)***less and middle-class and lower income folks pay more.

MR. CAIN: Yes.

MR. GREGORY: You think that's going to create a grassroots support for this.

MR. CAIN: Oh yes, because, if they do the math, do the math on your individual situation, people are going to benefit several other ways other than whether they pay more in taxes. The fact that they're not going to have the cost of filing and compliance. That's a $430 billion bill for all of us every year. So if they do the math on their individual situation, I believe that they--more people are going to see it's advantageous.

Now, here is another way, another piece of the puzzle that will help me get this passed. Public support and simplicity. Simplicity and public support because they understand it is what's going to allow the public to help put pressure on Congress to get this passed. That's my plan.

MR. GREGORY: Let me move on to some other issues and some of your views, which I think a lot of Americans haven't heard about. A lot of attention on these Wall Street protests right now.

MR. CAIN: Yes.

MR. GREGORY: You've written about, you've reacted to it. Do you empathize, as the president does, with the message of those Wall Street protesters?

MR. CAIN: What is their message? That's what's unclear. If that message is, "Let's punish the rich," I don't empathize with that message. They should be protesting the White House. The White House has basically enacted failed economic policies. The White House and the Democrats have spent $1 trillion that did not work. Now the president wants to pass another $450 billion. They have their frustrations directed at the wrong group. That's what I'm saying.

MR. GREGORY: You've talked as well about liberals in the country. You gave a speech in February where you didn't mince words. This is what you said.


MR. CAIN: The objective of the liberals is to destroy this country.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: To destroy this country. How so?

MR. CAIN: Economically. Look at this economy. David, the engine of economic growth is the business sector. We are growing at an anemic 1, 1 1/2 percent. If we allow this economy to continue to go down, it would destroy our economic capability. And, as a result, we are now looking at how much in defense we can cut. That's destroying it. It...

MR. GREGORY: You think liberals actually seek to do that, that that's their mission, to destroy the economy?

MR. CAIN: I--that's the conclusion that I have drawn.

MR. GREGORY: Not mismanagement.


MR. GREGORY: But it's their mission.

MR. CAIN: It is their mission. Because they do not believe in a stronger America, in my opinion. Yes.

MR. GREGORY: You've also said that stupid people are ruining America.

MR. CAIN: Yes.

MR. GREGORY: Who exactly are you talking about?

MR. CAIN: People who are uninformed. People who will not look at an alternate idea. People who are so dug in with partisanship and partisan politics. Open-mindedness is what's going to save this country. The reason that my message is appealing is because it's simple and people can understand it. You know, a good idea transcends party politics. But there are some people who will not even consider 9-9-9 or any other proposal if it's coming from someone of the opposite political persuasion.

MR. GREGORY: Is race a factor in this campaign?

MR. CAIN: Absolutely not. I have a lot of black people that are saying that they are going to vote for me if I get the nomination, and they're going to vote for me in the primary, not because of my color, but because of my ideas. They love the simplicity of 9-9-9. They love the simplicity of my approach to energy. We need to become energy independent. People are connected with my ideals and solutions. Many of the other candidates running for the nomination, they're talking about the problem and they're talking about generic solutions. I am putting specific solutions on the table.

MR. GREGORY: This is the cover of Newsweek magazine that'll hit stands this week. It is "Yes we Cain!: The Unlikely Rise of the Anti-Obama," talking about you. You've actually talked a bit about race, though, and you've created a contrast between yourself and your experience as an African-American, a term you don't like, by the way.

MR. CAIN: I prefer black American.

MR. GREGORY: Why? Why is that?

MR. CAIN: Because my roots go back through slavery in this country. Yes, they came from Africa, but the roots of my heritage are in the United States of America. So I consider myself a black American.

MR. GREGORY: So you draw some distinction between yourself and your experiences as a black man in America and the experience of President Obama.

MR. CAIN: Absolutely. I came from very humble beginnings. My mother was a maid, my father was a barber and janitor and a chauffeur. We, we had to, we had to learn--do things the old-fashioned way. We had to work for it. I--my parents never saw themselves as a victim, so I didn't learn how to be a victim. I didn't have anything given to me. I had to work very hard in order to be able to go to school and work my way through school. So, plus, my business experience, I have run small businesses. I have actually made pizzas, made hamburgers. I've actually had to do the inventory, clean the parking lot of a business. I've also had to...(unintelligible)...businesses.

MR. GREGORY: You're talking about business experience. You actually said President Obama's outside the mainstream. So you're making a different, more of a social cultural background distinction between you and the president.

MR. CAIN: More experiential. Look at his experiences vs. my experiences. It was more at a contrast of experiential differences than anything else.

MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about foreign policy...

MR. CAIN: Yes.

MR. GREGORY: area that, that comes up at a time when the nation's at war. We face terrorist threats, the Middle East is roiling.

MR. CAIN: Yes.

MR. GREGORY: The Iranian plot. Was this an act of war?

MR. CAIN: After I looked at all of the information provided by the intelligence community, the military, then I could make that decision. I can't make that decision because I'm not privy to all of that information.

MR. GREGORY: You don't have a view about what the Iranians have done?

MR. CAIN: I, I do, I, I do have a view. But what I'm saying, David, is I'm not going to say it was an act of war based upon news reports, with all due respect. I would hope that the president and all of his advisers are considering all of the factors in determining just how much, how much the Iranians participated in this.

MR. GREGORY: How would President Cain respond to this?

MR. CAIN: Well, President Cain would first make sure that he's making the right decision based upon all of the information. I, as a candidate, don't have all of the information. So, at this point, I can't say how I would respond. If, if it's an act of war, and the evidence suggests that, then I am going to consult with my advisers and say, "What are our options?"

MR. GREGORY: What about foreign policy advisers? Who, who has shaped your thinking about the U.S. in the world and foreign policy?

MR. CAIN: I've looked at the writings of people like Ambassador John Bolton. I've looked at the writings of Dr. Harry--Henry Kissinger. KT McFarland, someone who I respect. So...

MR. GREGORY: Would you describe yourself as a neoconservative then?

MR. CAIN: I'm not sure what you mean by neoconservative? I am a conservative, yes. Neoconservative, labels sometimes will put you in a box. I'm very conservative, but...

MR. GREGORY: But you're familiar with the neoconservative movement?

MR. CAIN: I'm not familiar with the neoconservative movement. I'm familiar with the conservative movement. And let me define what I mean by the conservative movement. Less government, less taxes, more individual responsibility.

MR. GREGORY: Were the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan a mistake?

MR. CAIN: I don't think the war in Iraq was a mistake because there were a lot of other reasons we needed to go to Iraq, and there have been a lot of benefits that have come out of Iraq. Now, that being said, I don't agree with the president's approach to drawdown 40,000 troops and basically leave that, leave that country open to attacks by Iran. Iran has already said that they want to wait till America leaves...

MR. GREGORY: So President Cain would want, even beyond the deadline, leave American troops there?

MR. CAIN: I would want to leave American troops there if that was what the commanders on the ground suggested. And I believe that that's what they are saying.

MR. GREGORY: How would you define victory in Afghanistan?

MR. CAIN: In Afghanistan, victory is, can we leave Afghanistan in a situation where they can defend themselves? I don't know if that's possible right now because, here again, what do the commanders on the ground say? What does the intelligence community say? A lot of analysis needs to into determining whether or not there is a definition of victory in Afghanistan.

MR. GREGORY: You said in the summertime, you told my colleague Savannah Guthrie, that you were still getting up to speed about foreign policy. You remember in the last campaign Hillary Clinton ran that ad against President Obama, then Senator Obama, "the 3 AM phone call."

MR. CAIN: Right.

MR. GREGORY: You know, the--in an international crisis, you want to know that the commander in chief is tested and ready. What do you say to Americans who wonder whether you're ready at this point to be commander in chief.

MR. CAIN: I would say to them, `First of all, consider my philosophy to foreign policy and my principles.' That's where you start. You can collect the information and make an informed decision. My philosophy is an extension of the Reagan philosophy, peace through strength and clarity. It's not clear who all of our friends are. It's not clear who our enemies are. I believe we need to clearly define who our friends are, clearly define who our enemies are, and then let the rest of the world know we will stand by our friends.

MR. GREGORY: Here's a general question. You said you wouldn't rely on wise men, so-called wise men, when it comes to foreign policy views, although you mentioned Henry Kissinger just a moment ago, that you're familiar with his writings. Generally speaking, you know, what, what you have as a great strength, I think to many, is no government experience. But you have no government experience whatsoever, and you want to do some big things. Explain that vision. I mean, would you bring outsiders in to Washington? Would you eschew the establishment of Washington and do things in a completely different way, maybe like Jimmy Carter?

MR. CAIN: Don't use Jimmy Carter as the example.

MR. GREGORY: Perhaps not ideologically.

MR. CAIN: Not ideological--don't--that's not a good example. Secondly, I don't recall saying I would not use wise men and wise women. My philosophy on...

MR. GREGORY: You wrote that in your book. "I won't lean on so-called `wise men' as other commanders in chief have done."

MR. CAIN: Well, let me explain what that means. I'm going to have a combination of people that are outside government and people that are inside government. As much as I and others talk about many of the problems that are perceived outside of Washington as what's going on inside Washington, D.C., there are some good people inside Washington, D.C., holding elected office that I am going to lean on and I'm going to call upon. But I'm also going to bring in people who understand, understand defining the right problem, knowing how to put--surround yourself with good people, and then putting together the right plans based upon some guiding principles that I have established throughout my career and I will establish as president.

MR. GREGORY: A few more, just some, some quick ones here.

MR. CAIN: Yes.

MR. GREGORY: On immigration, you said at an event in Tennessee that you would build an electrified fence on the border that could kill people if they try to cross illegally.

MR. CAIN: That's a joke, David.

MR. GREGORY: It's a joke, so that was...

MR. CAIN: It's a joke. That's a joke.

MR. GREGORY: That's not a serious plan?

MR. CAIN: That's not a serious plan.


MR. CAIN: No, it's not.

MR. GREGORY: You got a big laugh out of that, but that's not what you'd do.

MR. CAIN: That, that's a joke. that's a joke. I've also said America needs to get a sense of humor. That was a joke, OK?

MR. GREGORY: OK. So that's not serious.

MR. CAIN: Now, but, but...

MR. GREGORY: Would you, would you, would you deport illegal immigrants in the country now?

MR. CAIN: That--here's my approach to illegal immigration. Here, here again, this is what's resonating with people, how I would solve the problem. It's not as simple as, "Would you deport?" We must secure the border. Now, it'd be a combination of a physical fence, technology, and, in some terrible areas, we might have to put troops there. We must secure the border. Secondly, we must promote the path to citizenship that's already there. We need to clean up the bureaucracy. Third, enforce the laws that are already there. Now, the way you do that is, is number four, which is a bold idea. Empower the states to do what the federal government can't do and won't do as far as dealing with the illegals that are in the United States today.

MR. GREGORY: A couple more. Same sex marriage. Would you seek a constitutional ban for same sex marriage?

MR. CAIN: I wouldn't seek a constitutional ban for same sex marriage, but I am pro traditional marriage.

MR. GREGORY: But you would let the states make up their own mind as they're doing now?

MR. CAIN: They would make up their own minds, yes.

MR. GREGORY: What about abortion? You want to overturn Roe v. Wade. Could you support or condone abortion under any exceptions at all?

MR. CAIN: I believe in life from conception, and I do not agree with abortion under any circumstances.

MR. GREGORY: Exceptions for rape and incest?

MR. CAIN: Not for rape and incest because...

MR. GREGORY: What about life of the mother?

MR. CAIN: Because if you look at, you look at rape and incest, the, the percentage of those instances is so miniscule that there are other options. If it's the life of the mother, that family's going to have to make that decision.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm. But you can--would you condone abortion if the life of the mother were...

MR. CAIN: That family is going to have to make that...

MR. GREGORY: You won't render a judgment on that.

MR. CAIN: That family is going to have to make that decision.

MR. GREGORY: What about the Supreme Court? Who's your model of the ideal Supreme Court justice who you would appoint?

MR. CAIN: I would say that there are several that I have a lot of respect for. Justice Clarence Thomas is one of them. I believe that Justice Clarence Thomas, despite all of the attacks that he gets from the left, he basically rules and makes his decisions, in my opinion, based upon the Constitution and solid legal thinking. Justice Clarence Thomas is one of my models.

MR. GREGORY: Has he been targeted unfairly, you think?

MR. CAIN: I think he has been targeted unfairly.

MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you about your family. Your, your wife of 43 years, Gloria...

MR. CAIN: Yes.

MR. GREGORY: ...we haven't seen her campaigning. Is she a reluctant candidate's spouse?

MR. CAIN: No! My wife supports me 200 percent. But let me tell you why you haven't seen my wife. I'm running a different kind of a campaign. My wife and I, we have a family life, and she is maintaining the calmness and the tranquility of that family life so, when I do get a day off of the campaign trail, I can go home and enjoy my family. Secondly, I don't want to subject my wife and my family to the rigors and the attacks and the criticism of this campaign at this point. She will be visible at some point, but it'll be based upon when we want her to be visible, not when the powers that be or the media wants her to be visible. She supports me 200 percent.

MR. GREGORY: All right. Before you go, quick ones on the campaign.

MR. CAIN: Yes.

MR. GREGORY: I showed the polls. Are you the front-runner now?

MR. CAIN: I am one of the front-runners because, as you know, the polls can go up and down from one week to another.

MR. GREGORY: Well, you talk about that. I mean, look what we've seen so far in this race.

MR. CAIN: Yes.

MR. GREGORY: Trump, Bachmann, Perry, they were all up, they were all the anti-Romney...

MR. CAIN: Right.

MR. GREGORY: ...and they all came down.

MR. CAIN: Right.

MR. GREGORY: What makes you different?

MR. CAIN: Because of the substance of my ideas. When I talk to people and I talk to crowds and I get a response based upon how I describe the ideas, the 9-9-9's catching on. The fact that I've described the illegal immigration problem as four problems is catching on. The fact that we need to restructure Social Security, we can't keep just raising taxes and reducing benefits. The fact that I talk specific about how I would approach foreign policy. The fact that I believe in investing in our military, not continue to cut defense because the world is not safer. That's what's resonating with people and, that's why I don't think Herman Cain will be a flavor of the week.

MR. GREGORY: Can you chart a path to this nomination with the amount of money you have? You raised, in the third quarter, $2.6 million. Is that enough to go the distance?

MR. CAIN: It's not enough to go the distance but money is coming in. Here's what I've learned, David, and the polls show it: Message is more powerful than money. The 2.8 million that we reported, it didn't--what the report didn't say yet, it's in the report, no debt. And we have $1.3 million on hand as of the end of September. But, within the last two weeks, this is another thing that we've put out there, we've raised $2 million. So, in other words, our fundraising is now beginning to pick up.

MR. GREGORY: Why you and not Mitt Romney?

MR. CAIN: Why me and not Mitt Romney? Mitt Romney is a great businessman. I have a lot of respect for him. He has been more of a main--he has been more of a Wall Street executive. I have been more of a Main Street executive.

MR. GREGORY: That would be the dividing line. The debate continues. Mr. Cain, thank you very much.

MR. CAIN: David, thank you.


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