Repeating a walked-back lie

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.