SC weighs GOP candidates' tax proposals

COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) - Nearly three weeks after the Occupy Columbia movement started, jack-o-lanterns lined the grounds of the Statehouse. The signs of the Halloween season changed the scenery, but the message from demonstrators is still the same.

"We feel like we don't have a voice in politics," said demonstrator Kyle Lacio. "We're going to stay until we feel like something's being done about it."

Lacio has been at the State House grounds since the Occupy movement started in Columbia in early October, and over the last few weeks more have joined the effort.

Retired salesman and Army veteran Jerry Moore drove by the State House during the first few days of the Occupy demonstration and eventually joined the cause. To him, the movement isn't about partisan politics, but a collection of people looking to change the status quo in government.

"Our politicians and the people who represent us, like the movie says show us the money," said Moore. "We want to see it, what you're going to do, and we want to see that it works."

Last week, GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry did just that, choosing South Carolina as the stage to unveil a tax plan supporters say will generate jobs and improve the economy by increasing workers' take home wages.

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"Taxes will be cut across all income groups," Perry said while campaigning in South Carolina. "The net benefit will be more money in Americans' pockets, with greater investment in the private economy instead of the federal government."

Despite Perry's promises, critics argue the Perry plan will merely benefit high-income families and hurt the middle class.

His GOP opponent Herman Cain was the first presidential candidate to propose a flat tax this year. He called for a 9 percent income tax rate -- and no deductions for most people -- along with a 9 percent sales tax. Cain has ridden the so-called "999 Plan" to the top of most political tracking polls.

The Republican presidential hopefuls are set to debate in Spartanburg on November 12 at Wofford College. So far, Perry and Cain have been the only candidates to unveil detailed proposals on a tax and jobs plan.

Dr. Caroline Strobel, an accounting professor at USC's Darla Moore School of Business applauds them for addressing the issue,but, says both plans are flawed.

"I would like to think that once some of these plans have been out there for a while and people have really taken a look at them, they're going to realize that the plans are not going to work," said Strobel.

Dr. Strobel points to the Simpson-Bowles plan as a model for success. The comprehensive plan would have cut $200 billion in spending by reducing defense contracts, closing overseas bases, reducing farm and student loan subsidies, eliminating earmarks and cutting the federal work force by 10 percent.

The Bowles-Simpson proposal was put forth by Erskine Bowles, a Democratic businessman from North Carolina and former White House Chief of Staff under President Bill Clinton and former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming. Both were co-chairmen of President Barack Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in 2010.

The plan would have also boosted tax revenues by introducing a gasoline tax and restricting tax deductions such as those for employer-provided healthcare benefits, in addition to increasing the payroll tax and the retirement age.

The proposal failed in January 2010.

"We're going to have to do two things, broaden the tax base and reduce government spending," said Dr. Strobel of shoring up the nation's financial situation.

That's something that would alter the country's tax structure and potentially fix a system Occupy Columbia demonstrators call "broken."

However, at at this point, some in the group say they don't see anyone on either end of the political spectrum who can generate jobs and level the financial playing field.

"If we've learned anything over the last 30-40 years it's that talk is cheap," said Jerry Moore. "But, actually accomplishing and doing something is a little harder."