Herman Cain, a businessman-turned-presidential-candidate from Georgia, did not get much attention until he won the Republican straw poll in Florida last Saturday. Now, everyone wants to know about the man who, all of a sudden, could be a legitimate contender for the presidency.
Cain has very little political experience; his career has been almost entirely in business. He has never held elected office, although he ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000 and for a U.S. Senate seat in 2004. As a result, he has no voting or governing record to turn to for an idea of his political views; voters will have to rely entirely on the things he has said during his campaign.
Here are his positions on some of the biggest issues, both economic and social, that will come into play during the presidential race.
Budget: Cain says he would balance the budget by refusing to take any types of spending cuts off the table. Every federal agency, every government program and expenditure must be reviewed and revised with a keen eye and a red pen, his Web site says. It also highlights his experience as a businessman, saying that he made difficult decisions to cut company costs during hard times. Though it might not be politically popular to modernize and eliminate some of our entitlement programs, responsible leaders should be willing to do it all the same, his Web site says. They must be prepared to make tough choices and learn to simply say 'no.'
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Energy policy: Cain says it is a liberal fallacy to say that the high energy consumption of a thriving nation and conservation of our precious planet are at odds with one another. He says environmental regulations are burdensome and force America to rely on foreign oil rather than energy produced domestically, and argues that Americans have seen no improvements in our environment or in the cleanliness of our air as a result of those regulations. He also believes that subsidies for specific industries, like ethanol, go against free-market principles. If alternative energy sources are found to be inexpensive, safe and plentiful, then American consumers will choose to purchase them, his Web site says. Let the markets decide which forms of energy fuel our cars, heat our homes and which ones will keep America working.
Entitlement programs: Entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid should be eliminated so that states, cities, churches, charities and businesses can take over the task of helping the elderly, poor and disabled. Federal programs are inherently problematic because they create a sense of entitlement to government support and give people an incentive to be dependent. Welfare takes away individuals' freedom and independence, but eliminating entitlement programs would empower people.
Health care: Cain has had scathing criticism for President Obama's health care reform law, saying it trampled free-market ideals, interposed government bureaucrats between doctors and patients and ultimately made health care more expensive, not less. Cain is a survivor of Stage IV colon and liver cancer, and he has alleged more than once that he would have died if Obamacare had been in place when he was being treated, because if a bureaucrat was trying to tell me when I could get that CAT scan, that would have delayed my treatment. Instead, he proposes tax reform that would make insurance premiums tax-deductible regardless of whether it is the employer or the employee who buys them, as well as tort reform that would reduce lawsuits against doctors, allowing them to save on malpractice insurance and charge patients less.
Taxes: Cain calls his tax proposals the 999 plan, because it would create three flat taxes at a rate of 9 percent. The first would be a 9 percent business tax, which would apply to a business's gross income minus investments, dividends paid to shareholders and purchases from other businesses. The second would be a 9 percent individual tax on gross income minus charitable contributions. The third would be a 9 percent national sales tax, which would pave the way to eventually transition entirely to the fair tax, or a tax on spending rather than income. This would mean a flat tax rate for everyone, regardless of income, and it would eliminate payroll taxes and taxes on capital gains.
Abortion: Cain is arguably the most anti-abortion candidate in the Republican race. Nearly every candidate opposes abortion, but Cain has said that he would not make exceptions even for rape or incest. He would allow abortion only if the mother's life were in danger. He refused to sign the Susan B. Anthony List pledge to nominate only anti-abortion judges, end all taxpayer funding to organizations like Planned Parenthood and advance legislation to protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion, but not because he disagreed with it. He said he could not sign the pledge because it is the job of Congress, not the president, to advance legislation.
Climate change: In an interview in June, Cain said he did not believe global warming was a threat: I don't believe global warming is real. Do we have climate change? Yes. Is it a crisis? No, he said. The real science doesn't say that we have any major crisis or threat when it comes to climate change. He strongly opposes legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, because he believes it is another source of taxation for the bureaucrats.
Gun control: Cain has said he is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and that he opposes gun control laws, but he has also said that he would leave it up to the states to pass their own laws.
Evolution: Cain has not taken a public position on evolution.
Immigration: Cain promotes tough policies against illegal immigration. He believes the United States must secure its borders, although he has not specified whether he would support a fence along the Mexican border or some other means of keeping illegal immigrants out. He believes in the existing path to citizenship, meaning he would not create a route for people who came to the U.S. illegally to pursue legal citizenship. Taking a stand on the issue does not mean one lacks compassion, but instead, that one respects the rule of law and the importance of not becoming a lawless nation, his Web site says.
Religion: Cain believes that the United States was founded on religious principles and should stay that way. His Web site cites the endowed by their creator clause in the Declaration of Independence, the In God We Trust inscription on currency and the under God clause in the Pledge of Allegiance, which was added in the 1950s in the midst of the Red Scare. They were not just words. It was a collective reaffirmation that we know the ultimate source of our greatness as a nation, his Web site says. America's moral foundation does not need to be rewritten. It needs to be respected and taught to our children and grandchildren.
Same-sex marriage: Cain opposes same-sex marriage and civil unions, and recently said that he would reinstate the military's don't ask, don't tell policy, which was repealed last week. He has also called homosexuality a sin and indicated that it is a choice, not an inborn characteristic: I'm a Bible-believing Christian. I believe it's a sin. But I know that some people make that choice, he said in June. He did, however, say at one point that he would be willing to appoint an openly gay staffer to his administration.