Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's very Republican obsession for holding taxes and government regulations responsible for all the ills of the economy was everywhere in evidence in the jobs plan he released Tuesday.
Romney does deserve credit for going beyond the sound bite with his 160-page plan. It offers a starting point for a discussion rather than just a slap at an opponent.
And, indeed it would almost certainly create some jobs.
Government bureaucracies and congressional offices would have to hire people to analyze and calculate the financial impact of regulations under Romney's plan.
It contemplates a "budget-like process" to review any major rules — defined as those that would have an economic impact of at least $100 million — to assure that the costs are offset by eliminating other rules.
It's hard to imagine the maze of economic assumptions and spreadsheets that would result.
Congress has trouble even confirming heads of regulatory agencies and carrying out the other work already on its plate.
And now it's supposed to hold budget hearings on regulations, too?
Talk about the third circle of hell.
Romney — and other Republican presidential candidates — overlook some important points when they condemn regulations.
One is that regulations come into being for a reason.
In a complex economy it simply is not possible for each of us to assure that all the food we eat is safe, the air we breathe and the water we drink are clean, the toys our children play with are safe, that our employers aren't stealing our retirement funds and mortgage brokers aren't cheating us. We've got other things to do. So there are laws and regulations that give us a reasonable hope we're protected.
It's also bothersome that they seem to cast regulations as "a burden" in every instance.
But consider the honest business person who maintains a safe workplace and treats customers fairly. Can he or she compete on price with the guy down the street who cuts corners? Regulations can protect the consumer and level the playing field.
The president of a hospitality business in Miami made that point in a McClatchy report on what small businesses actually believe is hurting them.
"Regulations are necessary and we must deal with them," said Bernard Wolfson. "The health and safety of our guests depend on regulations. It is the government regulations that help keep things in order."
Romney also presents the horror of out-of-control agencies manned by faceless bureaucrats that the president and Congress must bring under control.
Each of those agencies is created, funded and overseen by Congress. Congress has the right and responsibility to intervene if they are out of control.
If Congress isn't doing that job now there's no reason to believe that an extra layer of budget hearings would change things.
None of the business people interviewed by McClatchy in several cities pointed to regulations as a damning factor for their businesses. They weren't even that bothered by taxes. The lack of jobs and economic uncertainty topped their concerns.
They are tough problems with no simple or obvious solutions. A presidential contest is a great time to have a no-holds-barred debate on how to right our economy.
So, let's stop the pandering and have that debate.