MICHEL MARTIN, Host:
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We're going to spend a good deal of time today talking about money, how much the government has to spend and how much and how little many American families have. Later we're going to talk about that special Congressional Committee that's been charged with coming up with a plan to take a big bite out of the federal deficit. That group held it's first public hearing on Tuesday.
We're also going to hear about a new survey that says a significant number of wealthy baby boomers are not at all interested in leaving money to their children. We're going to hear more about that also. But first we want to talk about those new numbers describing poverty in America. According to new census bureau, numbers released on Tuesday, another 2.6 million people were added to the ranks of America's poor last year. That's a total of 46 million Americans who are considered poor taking the nations poverty rate to 15.1 percent, the highest level since 1993.
Also, median household income dropped and nearly 50 million people did not have health insurance. We are going to hear two views about what should be done about this. First up is a man who thinks he can do a better job leading the nation back to prosperity than the man currently in the White House. Herman Cain is running for the Republican presidential nomination. He's made a strong impression in the early debates. He's the former CEO of Godfathers Pizza, which he is credited with turning around. Welcome to the program, Mr. Cain. Thanks so much for joining us.
HERMAN CAIN: It's my pleasure Michel, thank you.
MARTIN: First I wanted to ask you, do you think that the poverty rate as described by the Census Bureau is in fact a big deal?
CAIN: I think it's atrocious and it is a big deal, and one of the main economic guiding principles is that the business sector is the engine of economic growth, and unfortunately that engine is not getting any fuel. That engine didn't get any fuel with that nearly one trillion dollars, where sometimes they call it 800 billion and sometimes they call it 870 billion, but if you add in all of the other trinkets, the cash for clunkers programs, let's round it off to a trillion dollars.
It didn't stimulate this economy. We're still in a recession, and so what I'm saying is that's why those numbers are going up.
MARTIN: You've called for dramatic tax reform as sort of the centerpiece of your proposal to get the country back to prosperity. You talked about your 999 proposal, a business flat tax of nine percent, an individual flat tax of nine percent, and a national sales tax of nine percent. Could you just briefly tell us why you think this is a better idea than what's been discussed to this point?
CAIN: This is a better idea because it broadens the tax base. Because this economy is not growing, the current tax base is just on income, so we broaden the base, also bringing in some revenue from retail sales but also dramatically lower the tax on corporate profits and personal income, we broaden the base. And here's the biggest thing that will make this work. You don't pass this for a trial period. You say to the business community, this tax structure will be our new tax structure until further notice.
That's how you put some certainty back into this economy. And the 999 plan, it would collect the same amount of revenue that we get from corporate income taxes, personal income taxes. A payroll tax would also be picked up in this 999 plan along with the estate tax.
MARTIN: Does that mean you would eliminate all deductions? Does that mean you would eliminate all deductions like the mortgage interest deduction, the dependent deduction?
CAIN: Yes, all of that goes away. But the business piece, your only deduction would be purchases that you make from other businesses to produce your product or service. Personally you are able to deduct contributions. Everything else goes away.
MARTIN: How does that work to get people back to work immediately?
CAIN: The way it works is that businesses would then be able to plan their growth. Right now they can't plan their growth. The reason they can't plan their growth is because they are not sure of the full impact of ObamaCare. They are not sure of the full impact of the Dodd-Frank regulatory (unintelligible) bill. It has banks sitting in neutral because they're not - you know, they're not loaning money. And then the biggest thing is, we don't know what the tax rates are going to be at the beginning of January of 2013.
Uncertainty is what's killing this economy, along with too much taxation and this onslaught of regulations that are coming out of this administration.
MARTIN: And finally, Mr. Cain - and we appreciate your taking the time while you're out on the campaign trail - I would like to ask you the same question I had the opportunity to ask President Obama. Since you're both African-American and the unemployment rate among African-Americans is the highest among all ethnic groups in the country, I'd like to ask, do you feel that you have a special responsibility to address this group because of your own background, or not?
CAIN: I do feel like I have a special responsibility, but by fulfilling that responsibility it will help everybody that's in that predicament, because see, here's the thing. If you look at the number of jobs held by African-Americans in this country, they held a probably large percentage of blue collar jobs, particularly in the construction industry. Which industry has been hurt the most? Home sales, construction, etc. I know this because I have relatives that have been hard hit, and so my point is, get the economy growing.
The housing market is not going to come back until this economy gets going. We need a bold solution. Now, the other thing that I plan to do, which I have not talked about yet, is to create empowerment zones. This is an idea of the (unintelligible) that didn't go very far because of the complexity of the tax code. One of the other big advantages of my 999 plan is it makes it fairly easy for us to identify empowerment zones, and there again you're going to be doing something that's going to hit the black community a lot more than it will the general population.
MARTIN: Herman Cain is running for the Republican presidential nomination. He's the former chairman of Godfathers Pizza and a former head of the board of the National Restaurant Association. He was kind enough to join us by phone from the campaign trail. Mr. Cain, thank you so much for joining us.
CAIN: It's my pleasure, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.