The Herman Cain Sexual Harassment Accusation

This post originally appeared at Smoking Politics.
Politico has revealed allegations that Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain, the front-runner in the Republican Presidential primaries, was accused of sexual harassment in the late 90s and that his employer, the National Restaurant Association, settled the charges with a cash payout. His explanation is that he made a certain gesture and said his wife is “this tall,” and was sued for a lot of money.
My take on it: I don’t see it. Unless something else comes up I have not heard enough evidence to make me question Cain’s character — on this issue. (His 9-9-9 plan is a whole different story.) I haven’t heard of anything that might indicate a pattern. I don’t even think it looks bad that this was settled. I think the Association would have settled rather than fight the charges because that saves a great deal of money, even if Cain was innocent, so settling, to me, is not evidence of guilt. I’ve run a company, people sue you when you run a company or an association or other organization. (My own policy was never settle, and that ended up costing me a great deal of money going to court and winning.) They say something happened at an event “at a hotel.” It sounds bad that it happened at an event at a hotel, but this was the Restaurant Association and they do all kinds of events at hotels. And here is the main thing: there are two major Presidential campaigns that have very good reason to make Cain look bad. So I am withholding judgement.
Where Did It Come From?
This story likely came from either Rick Perry or Mitt Romney’s campaign, in my opinion. Cain is the front-runner in the polls, Perry and Romney believe they are entitled to be the candidate, they feel Cain is a distraction from the “serious people’s” race and they really, really want Cain out of the way so they can get at tearing each other up instead. Of course one of them set this up.
This is not a particularly bad thing. A Presidential candidate needs to be able to field this kind of thing. It’s part of the screening, part of the landscape of this. A President is going to be accused of things; do we want a President who flubs it when accused of things he or she actually didn’t do? No, we want to know that a President can get distractions out of the way. (We also want to know if the candidate really does have a character flaw, like I said I am withholding judgement until I see more to go on.)
Is This A Smear?
Do the accusations rise to the level of a smear, like the Swift Boat attack on Kerry, or the various attacks on Gore and Obama? I don’t classify this as a smear, I’d call it typical campaign stuff. Seriously, it is just a media outlet reporting some facts. There is no echo chamber primed to amplify it, no larger narrative that it is intended to reinforce. I would say that a smear — the kind we fight here at Smoking Politics — is a false charge designed to fit into a larger narrative that is part of an ideological strategy. This is just a news report about something that did happen — the accusation and settlement. It is not structured around a narrative about Cain, it’s just a typical campaign hit to try to knock him out of the primary. Just no big deal, let’s see how well Cain handles it.
Bigger Picture — The Narrative
So on to the bigger picture of how these stories affect campaigns and our politics, which is what Smoking Politics is about. How should we react to this story? And how is it being used? Specifically, what narrative, or propaganda point, is the being driven with the story?
The movement right sees an opportunity to use this to further their anti-“liberal” propaganda narrative. (That’s who they are, that’s what they do.) They are charging that this is an example of “liberals” attacking a conservative. They are saying Cain is a victim of liberal attacks. Heh.
Rush Limbaugh says this is the “mainstream media” attacking a conservative, and adds a racial element. (Because that’s what he does.) From the transcript: We Should Not be Surprised by the Left’s Racist Hit Job on Herman Cain.

“Look at how quickly what is known as the mainstream media goes for the ugliest racial stereotypes they can to attack a black conservative. … The racial stereotypes that these people are using to go after Herman Cain, what is the one thing that it tells us? It tells us who the real racists are, yeah, but it tells us that Herman Cain is somebody. Something’s going on out there. Herman Cain obviously is making some people nervous for this kind of thing to happen.
[. . .] We cannot have a black Republican running for the office of president. We can’t have one elected. We can’t have an Hispanic. The left owns those two groups, and those two groups are gonna forever be minorities. Those groups cannot ever be seen to be self-sufficient or rising above, on their own. Those two groups are owned — lock, stock, and barrel — by the Democrat Party and anything good that happens to any black or Hispanic in American politics can only happen via the Democrat Party. “If it happens elsewhere, we’re gonna destroy those people — a la Clarence Thomas.”

The poisonous Ann Coulter says it is “liberals” doing this. She told – who else – Fox News,

“It’s outrageous the way liberals treat a black conservative,” she told Geraldo. “This is another high-tech lynching. … Nothing liberals fear more than a black conservative.”

Please, one thing that Democrats want more than anything is for Cain to be the candidate. And calling Politico a liberal, mainstream media outlet? It’s not for nothing that bloggers call it “Drudgico.”
How To React?
This sort of thing happens in campaigns — and it should. Like I said, it’s just a news report about an accusation and settlement from a long time ago. It gives us a chance to learn about Cain. It gives Cain a chance to show us how he handles things. It isn’t a smear, it’s a news report about something that happened. We’ll see how he does.

Is A Flat Tax Fair?

Conservatives are always pushing for a “flat tax.” It sounds so simple: One easy rate, so we all pay the same, easy to calculate… Get rid of deductions and lower the tax rates. So simple, but it turns out it is a simple trick, a scam to enrich the 1%, like so much else that conservatives are selling. Don’t fall for it — it means taxes will go up for the 99% of us who aren’t really, really rich. See if you can guess what happens if you are in the top 1%. Or, just scroll down and see the chart.
What We Have Now
We have what’s called a “progressive’ tax system. This means as you make more you pay more taxes. The first “bracket” of $XX dollars you make is taxed at a low rate. The next $XX dollars are taxed at a higher rate, and so on. Many people think if you “go into a higher bracket” you pay more on all the money you make, but that is not how it works. If a bracket starts at $1 million, and you make $1 million plus $1 you only pay the higher rate on the $1 that is in that bracket. Yes, that means that a 5% increase on taxes over $1 million would mean that person pays a nickel. Yes, all that screaming by Republicans is over a nickel. Screaming is what they do best.
The reason we have a progressive tax system is because we have a democracy. People who make more do so because of the investment in governent that We, the People make. We, the People pool our money collectively and use it to build the infrastructure that lets people make so much money. That’s the roads, schools, police, courts, etc. — they whole system — that provides the foundation for our businesses to go out an compete in the world. And when our businesses do well, we ask them to pay back a dividend to the rest of us for enabling that to happen.
No Deductions
Conservatives always call for getting rid of deductions, because they are complicated. Get rid of deductions, they say, simplify the system, and you can lower tax rates. Here is the game they are playing. Suppose you have a small businesses, a grocery store. Suppose you buy $100,000 inventory and sell it for $130,000. If you get rid of deductions that means the small-grocery-owner pays taxes on $130,000 because that is the income of the store.
If you say the business owner should be allowed to “deduct” the amount paid for inventory we’re back to deciding which deductions to allow. So we are right back where we started, except now the conservatives have lowered tax rates (at the top) and their big corporate sponsors will be gaming the system to give themselves more and more and more deductions just like they already do.
What Happens With A Flat Tax?
Conservatives object to the idea of the rich paying back more. They say that taxes are theft — government confiscating money that people have earned, ignoring that our democracy enabled them to earn it in the first place. They call taxation “redistribution” of wealth. Of course, as AlterNet’s Joshua Holland points out, redistribution is the core job of government. He points out that when government collects taxes and builds a sidewalk that everyone can walk on — or homeless people can sleep on — that is redistribution. Courts, schools, police, ports, airports — all of it is redistribution of wealth.
So conservatives call for a “flat tax.” Most notably Republican Presidential candidates Rick Perry and Herman are calling for various forms of this. Cain This means everyone pays the same tax rate as everyone else, regardless of income. Because this is about scrapping democracy’s progressive tax system this necessarily means that the rich will pay a lot less. Guess who pays more to make up for that? A good example of this effect is the 9-9-9 tax plan.
The 9-9-9 Plan
The Tax Policy Center takes a look at Repubican candidate Herman Cain’s “9-9-9” tax plan, in a post titled, Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 Tax Plan

Herman Cain’s plan would eliminate the current individual income tax, corporate income tax, payroll tax, and estate and gift tax and substitute three taxes imposed at a 9 percent rate: 1) a 9 percent “national sales tax” 2) a 9 percent “business flat tax”, and 3) a 9 percent “individual flat tax.”

They have a table here that shows how people’s taxes would change under the 9-9-9 plan. Jared Bernstein made a chart illustrating these numbers in his post 9-9-9 in One (Really Long) Graph.

So here you have it: the change in tax liabilities, compared to current tax policy, under 9-9-9, for different income groups, in one incredibly unsettling graph.

In the following chart the blue lines that are above zero illustrate how much more most of us will pay. The red lines below zero show how much less the rich and really rich will pay. The blue lines — representing taxes on most of us — go up. The red lines — representing taxes on the top few — go … well, see for yourself.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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