Oct 252011
Authors: Paul West McClatchy-Tribune

COLUMBIA, S.C.—In a new attempt to reboot his troubled presidential candidacy, Texas Gov. Rick Perry proposed an economic plan Tuesday that would dramatically lower taxes on the wealthy, sanction private Social Security accounts and deeply slash federal spending on domestic programs.

The Republican governor’s proposal would give Americans the option of paying a 20 percent tax or keeping their current rate, which now rises to 35 percent for the most wealthy. Perry also would eliminate a variety of taxes that mainly affect the rich, as well as the income tax on Social Security payments, which would benefit millions of retirees.

Perry told reporters he didn’t “have a problem in the world” if his plan delivers millions of dollars to the richest taxpayers, and that he assumes they will use the windfall to create jobs. He also dismissed criticisms that the plan would widen the federal deficit.

For Perry, the presentation of his economic proposal was an effort to change the subject after weeks in which his faltering debate performances have derailed his campaign. But the day’s announcement was sidetracked in part by Perry’s refusal to dismiss questions he has raised about President Barack Obama’s citizenship.

At a statehouse press conference, he dodged when asked whether he believed Obama was born in the United States. Perry said lingering doubts about Obama’s birth certificate were nothing more than a distraction. But in an interview Monday night he called it “a good issue to keep alive.”

“It’s fun to poke him a little bit and say, ‘Hey, let’s see your grades and your birth certificate.’ I don’t have a clue about where the president — and what this birth certificate says. But it’s also a great distraction. I’m not distracted by it,” Perry told CNBC’s John Harwood.

The TV interview was conducted one day after release of a Parade magazine interview in which Perry said he could not say definitively that Obama was U.S.-born. And he quoted businessman Donald Trump, a tea party favorite whose endorsement is being sought by the GOP candidates, as saying that the Hawaii birth certificate Obama released in April wasn’t real.

Perry’s economic announcement came as he sought to bolster his campaign by hiring a raft of new campaign consultants. One of the additions is Austin, Texas, lobbyist Joe Allbaugh, a tight-fisted manager who helped run George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign.

The plan announced Tuesday threaded between those already released by other GOP candidates — including the simple “9-9-9” plan by businessman Herman Cain that would shrink income and corporate taxes to single digits.

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