Mitt Romney launched his second presidential campaign yesterday, and offered the public quite a few whoppers on his first day. My personal favorite: “We are only inches away from ceasing to be a free market economy.”

David Corn was understandably amazed.

Inches away? Is he kidding? Did Sarah Palin write this line for Romney?

Reporters should ask the former mandate-embracing governor of Massachusetts to back up this demagogic statement…. American automakers are in a much better (and more competitive) position, due to Obama’s rescue plan. (Romney opposed the use of federal money to save Detroit.) Corporate and bank profits have been soaring in recent months. And the stock mark recovered from the losses brought about by the Bush-Cheney crash of 2008. If this be the end of our free market economy, titans of industry and investors may be tempted to embrace its demise. […]

The nation’s free market economy is not on the verge of extinction. (Oh, look, here come the collectivists!) Romney must know that. Yet his willingness to utter such an extreme, fear-laden remark shows he’s eager to tap the paranoid, Obama-is-destroying-America sentiment rife within Republican ranks. You might even say that Romney has drunk the tea.

The Associated Press, to its credit, ran a fact-check piece of its own, documenting clear falsehoods from Romney’s kick-off speech, including (1) a bogus claim that Obama made the recession “worse”; (2) arguing that the president “traveled around the globe to apologize for America”; (3) insisting that Obama “raises” taxes on “entrepreneurs and employers”; (4) falsely claiming he never raised taxes during his one term as governor.

And while we’re at it, National Journal noted that Romney’s condemnation of the administration’s economic agenda overlooks the fact that Romney endorsed much of that same agenda in 2009.

None of this is especially surprising — Romney’s willing to lie to get ahead? You don’t say — but it sets an unhelpful tone for the rest of the campaign. The former Massachusetts governor is not only the most dramatic flip-flopper American politics has seen in a generation, he’s also well on his way to being among the most dishonest candidates, too.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.