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December 13, 2011 4:30 PM Repeating a walked-back lie

By Steve Benen

In September, Mitt Romney claimed that the federal regulatory burden had increased four-fold since President Obama was elected. When NPR asked Romney’s campaign to back that up, aides said the former governor “misspoke” when he made the bogus claim.

Yesterday, as Pat Garofalo noted, Romney repeated the same lie his campaign had already walked back months ago.

“The level of regulation in America, every the regulators, the government, come up with new regulations. And they send them out. The rate of regulatory burden has increased four-fold since Obama has become president. Four times the amount of regulation coming out per year as in the past. And so businesses say, ‘gosh, I’m not sure I want to invest in America.’”

Gosh, I’m not sure I want to trust Mitt Romney.

It’s problematic enough when major presidential candidates say things that aren’t true on the campaign trail. But when a candidate says something untrue, then the campaign acknowledges it was a mistake, only to have the candidate repeat it all over again points to a campaign that doesn’t take the truth seriously.

What’s more, it’s worth emphasizing just how foolish Romney’s argument really is. The notion that regulations are hurting the economy has already been so thoroughly debunked, it’s safe to conclude that anyone who repeats it is not to be trusted. But there’s another angle to the talking point that’s equally important: Obama hasn’t approved massive new regulations.

President Barack Obama’s “tsunami” of new government regulations looks more like a summer swell.

Obama’s White House has approved fewer regulations than his predecessor George W. Bush at this same point in their tenures, and the estimated costs of those rules haven’t reached the annual peak set in fiscal 1992 under Bush’s father, according to government data reviewed by Bloomberg News. […]

Obama’s White House approved 613 federal rules during the first 33 months of his term, 4.7 percent fewer than the 643 cleared by President George W. Bush’s administration in the same time frame, according to an Office of Management and Budget statistical database reviewed by Bloomberg.

Let’s also not forget that Romney simply assumes that federal government regulations are necessarily bad things. That’s absurd — we’re talking about rules that help ensure healthier children, safer roads, and fewer industrial accidents, which in turn offer societal and financial benefits.

In other words, every relevant aspect of Romney’s argument is completely wrong. The regulatory burden hasn’t increased four-fold; it hasn’t increased at all; it’s not hurting the economy; and there’s no reason to concede the premise that regulations are awful.

Romney’s argument is a lie wrapped in confusion stuffed in ignorance.

As for why Romney would repeat a falsehood his own campaign already admitted wasn’t true, we know why — because to Romney and his boosters, the truth is largely irrelevant, campaign messages necessarily constitute “propaganda” that need not be accurate, and there’s nothing especially wrong with sociopathic standards for honesty in the public discourse.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • Darsan54 on December 13, 2011 4:44 PM:

    I used to feel a little sorry for Mitt. He seemed the one emotionally stable candidate in a party of insanity. Now, I am seeing a desperation that worries me if Romney were to encounter a stressful situation for the nation. He's in a panic. If he panics now, what will be do when he's in charge of the country? I shudder to think what.

  • DAY on December 13, 2011 4:44 PM:

    This morning on CNBC the three founders of Home Depot went to some lengths, castigating Obama and his "regulations". They didn't bother to enumerate them, as they needed time to denigrate Dodd-Frank, making much merriment about the name of the law, as though the very mention of Senator Dodd or Congressman Frank was enough to send investors scurrying to third world stock exchanges, desperate for the opportunity to invest in tulip futures.

    It ain't the laws, folks, it is the enforcement that gits 'er done.

  • c u n d gulag on December 13, 2011 4:52 PM:

    Maybe like Rove, Mitt's trying to create his own reality but just isn't very good at it!

    Or, he's a shameless hack who'll say anything to get elected.

    Or, maybe both!

    Yeah - both.

  • N.Wells on December 13, 2011 5:13 PM:

    I'm going to vote republican because I've had it with all those damn regulations. Like that stupid pesky regulation about how we all have to drive on the right side of the road. Damnit, if there's unused road out there, or we feel like we want to drive on the left, why can't we do that! Is this supposed to be a free nation or what? And don't get me started on how the g.d. government says I can't drink and use stop signs for target practice while I'm driving. (/snark)

    (My effort to channel my "inner Republican", to help understand why they so detest government regulations.)

  • Ron Byers on December 13, 2011 5:16 PM:

    I know people who absolutely believe Romney's talking point. You ask for proof and the point to Fox News. Just because Romney is repeating what conservatives are being told over and over again by the Murdock machine doesn't mean he is a bigger liar than any other conservative. It just means he is talking to people who don't know the truth.

  • Rich on December 13, 2011 5:20 PM:

    in general, the GOP doesn't care if something is a lie. they want it to enter the discourse and be repeated over and over again until a lot of people think it's true. The process and Romney's repetition of this are by themselves not the story here.

  • T2 on December 13, 2011 5:25 PM:

    there’s nothing especially wrong with sociopathic standards for honesty in the public discourse if you are a Republican.

  • Robert Waldmann on December 13, 2011 5:32 PM:

    Good catch. Also, without knowing the facts, one can tell Romney is lying. The regulatory burden is the stock of regulations not the flow. Even if one claim of fact, 4 times as many New regulations were true, the claimabout the burden would be false. The language shows that Romney is not trying to trick all those who don't know the facts, but rather those who don't know And can't think. That's enough, he just needs a majority.

  • Peter C on December 13, 2011 5:47 PM:

    We need a host of people out there to storm the mike at campaign Q&A sessions and say with vehemence and outrage,
    "Sir, that's a LIE! HOW DARE YOU LIE TO ME!"

    If there are enough of us, one will break through the bubble.

  • Joe Buck on December 13, 2011 9:23 PM:

    Wonks on our side fail to note that these lies by the Republicans are tactical. The Obama administration has bent over backwards to prove that they aren't big bad socialists, and trot out these numbers to make their Wall Street backers happy. But the fact of the matter is that we need new regulations, and lots of them, to avoid another 2008 meltdown and to save the planet from global warming.

    In short, Republicans falsely charge that Democrats are left-extremists not just to help win office, but also to advance their policy agenda, because they know that rather than argue for progressive goals (and piss off their Wall Street contributors), Dems will move to the right instead.

    The true scandal is that Obama has put in fewer regulations that Bush at this point in his term. That's really unfortunate given the need.

  • ameshall on December 13, 2011 10:06 PM:

    No offense, Steve, but there's no such thing as a good regulation if you are Mitt Romney (or any other Republican), All regulations are evil.

  • jcricket on December 13, 2011 10:53 PM:

    Mitt is counting on the rabid and the stupid/follower to get him through the convention. After that if he is the nominee, he's hoping no one noticed that he just spent the last year talking out of both sides of his mouth half the time and out of his ass the other half.

    At this point, I'm willing to bet that Jeb shows up as an alternative at the convention.

  • Cal Gal on December 13, 2011 11:23 PM:

    "... because to Republicans and their boosters, the truth is largely irrelevant, campaign messages necessarily constitute “propaganda” that need not be accurate, and there’s nothing especially wrong with sociopathic standards for honesty in the public discourse."

    There, fixed it for your.

  • Deborah Montesano on December 14, 2011 9:24 PM:

    It seems that everything the Republicans say anymore is "a lie wrapped in confusion stuffed in ignorance". Or they're insane. Or both liars and insane, which is more my position. Check out "The GOP In the Grip of Madness", at http://thepoliticali.blogspot.com/2011/12/gop-in-grip-of-madness.html.

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