Former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain "has jumped to the top of Republican polls thanks to a bold tax scheme called the '9-9-9 Plan,'" says Jared Newman in TIME. "But it'd be even bolder if SimCity hadn't come up with the idea eight years ago." As Amanda Terkel at The Huffington Post noticed, the new GOP frontrunner's proposal — flat 9 percent corporate, income, and national sales taxes — should be familiar to anyone who's played SimCity 4, a 2003 computer game where you are "mayor" of a simulated city. Your fake city's default across-the-board tax rate is, of course, 9 percent. Coincidence?
How similar is Cain's plan to SimCity 4?
"Almost exactly the same," says Nate Jones in Metro New York. Unless you change the rates for your city's residential, commercial, and industrial taxes, they default to 9 percent.
How did the SimCity creators hit on a 9-9-9 scheme?
"Our game design team thought that an easy-to-understand taxation system would allow players to focus on building their cities and have fun thwarting giant lizard attacks, rather than be buried by overly complex financial systems," says Kip Katsarelis at Maxis, the company behind the SimCity series. Since you need revenue to run a city, "collecting taxes is naturally part of the game," says Andy Chalk in The Escapist. And 9 percent was the perfect "middle-of-the-road rate" that brought in "enough money to keep the streets clean and cops paid without driving your citizens to a tax revolt."
Did Cain steal their idea?
It's as plausible a theory as others that have been floated, says The Huffington Post's Terkel: "Unnamed economic advisers? A clever marketing promotion pulled from the pizza industry?" But Cain isn't saying. The cryptic comment from spokesman JD Gordon: "Well, we all like 9-9-9." I "desperately hope" he stole the idea, says Metro's Nate Jones. But I doubt "Cain was spending the early 2000s in SimCity trying to build the perfect Cainville — the dude had a pizza franchise to run!" I buy it, says Dan Amira in New York. Keep in mind, "this is a man who repeatedly quoted lyrics from Pokemon: The Movie 2000."
How well did the 9-9-9 plan work in SimCity?
"Running SimCity 4 on its default tax setting was a disaster waiting to happen," says Bridgette P. LaVictoire in Lez Get Real. Unless you used a cheat code, "you ran out of money pretty fast, in fact, and had to go deep into debt." But even if it had worked, there's a pretty huge difference between running a fake city and the most powerful nation on earth. Also, notes TIME's Newman, "Sim City 4 features meteors, UFOs, and robot attacks, which would probably mess up most attempts at realistic modeling."