Herman Cain defended his 9-9-9 economic plan in a speech in Detroit on Friday, saying criticisms that his tax policy is regressive and unfair to the poor are unfounded because he would not ask individuals or families at or below the poverty line to pay income tax.
"If you are at or below the poverty level, your plan isn't 9-9-9, it's 9-0-9," Cain said. "In other words, you don't pay that middle income tax."
Cain also elaborated on the economic empowerment zones that he had previously mentioned as a way to stimulate impoverished areas.
In the zones, businesses would receive tax credits against the corporate income tax side of his 9-9-9 proposal. But for a jurisdiction to qualify, it would have to adopt a number of conservative policies, including eliminating the minimum wage, instituting school vouchers and declaring the area "right-to-work" — or non-union.
Areas with state or city laws preventing them from adopting the policies would be eligible for waivers.
"Bottom line, folks — 9-9-9 equals jobs-jobs-jobs," Cain said.
The candidate said he was eager for the opportunity to defend his plan and explain its details in a venue other than the Republican debate, where his opponents have been hammering the proposal.
"This is a day that we have an opportunity to explain 9-9-9 without six attacks at the same time, if you know what I mean," Cain said.
The former Godfather's Pizza CEO also defended his economic credentials.
"Some people think there's just pepperoni between these two ears, but I used to work doing economic analysis," Cain said.