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The 2012 Hopefuls: Herman Cain

Learn about the former GOP presidential candidate and his views on Social Security, Medicare and more

Cain, Republican Candidates President 2012

Candidate Herman Cain arrives in Okoboji, Iowa. Hailing from the business world, he takes pride in the fact that he has never held elected office and hopes that will resonate with voters disappointed in politicians. — Photo by Max Whittaker/Prime

Herman Cain
(Dropped out of race on Dec. 3, 2011)

Born: Dec. 13, 1945, in Memphis, Tenn.

Job history: CEO and president, Godfather's Pizza, 1986-96; member of the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, 1992-96 (chairman, 1995-96); radio show host and author of four books

Education: B.A., Morehouse College; M.S., Purdue University

Personal: Married to Gloria (Etchison) Cain; National Baptist Convention, USA

Campaign website:

Herman Cain, a onetime underdog who surged to the top tier in the fall, crows about the fact that he has never held elected office. Then he lists recent Oval Office occupants with public service experience and asks with a laugh, "How's that working for you?" But Cain, who emerged on the political scene after confronting Bill Clinton on the former president's health care plan during a 1994 town hall meeting, is determinedly pushing for lower taxes and a reform of both Social Security and Medicare, saying, "We need to go from an entitlement society to an empowerment society." The only African American in the GOP field, Cain has joked that he is the "dark horse candidate." But he has attracted loyal support from an antiestablishment conservative wing of the party.

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

Cain has provided few details about how he would restructure entitlement programs, although he has spoken sympathetically about Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to overhaul Medicare. "He is giving seniors a choice," Cain says. The former pizza magnate has argued in favor of restructuring Social Security, including by allowing private accounts within the federal program, but not privatizing it outright. Still, Cain includes Social Security and Medicare payments among a list of items (including the national debt and military personnel) that must be paid. "Then, you look at everything else, and that's where you start cutting," Cain says. In a November debate, Cain called for block-granting Medicaid. "Medicaid has gotten states hooked on it like crack. We have to break the crack habit with block grants," Cain said.

Cain wants to repeal the 2010 health care law. He survived a 2006 bout with stage IV colon and liver cancer and credits the American health care system for his recovery. Health care, Cain believes, should be driven by the market.

Taxes and budget

Cain, a Tea Party movement favorite, has ambitious plans for taxes and spending, replacing the current tax system with his 9-9-9 forumla: Cut the personal income tax to 9 percent, the current corporate income tax from 35 to 9 percent and impose a new 9 percent national sales tax. He would abolish the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security payroll tax, the estate tax, the capital gains tax and end all deductions and credits. Eventually he would replace the current income tax with a "fair tax," a 23 percent national sales tax. The tax would cover what Americans now pay in payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, Cain says.  Further, the Georgia businessman also wants to pass a balanced budget amendment, drastically reduce government regulation of business and return to the gold standard.

Cain supported the TARP federal bank bailout, a position that sets him apart from his Tea Party compatriots. But while Cain defended the program as a good investment for taxpayers, he said he didn't like the way it was implemented, since the government was picking "winners and losers."

Susan Milligan is a prize-winning Washington reporter.

Also of interest: AARP’s voter education guide.

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