This is probably the biggest reason that no one should take too seriously Republican complaints about burdensome regulations strangling the economy. The truth is that most reformers prefer fairly simple rules. In the tax world, they'd prefer to simply tax all income. In the environmental world, they'd prefer to set firm limits for pollutants. In the financial world, they'd prefer blunt rules that cut off risky activity at its knees.Yup. The other half of this to remember is that a lot of the specific words you hear during elections, or spin in general, are very much the results of polling and focus group testing. On both sides, of course. So odds are that "regulations" just doesn't test well (or, to put it the other way, railing against regulations probably tests very well). That's fine; there's not much harm from all players describing their policies in the best possible language. Nor is there anything wrong, for that matter, with adjusting the policies that you support to account for what's popular.
But businesses don't like simple rules, because simple rules are hard to evade. So they lobby endlessly for exemptions both big and small.
Where politicians and parties go wrong is when they adjust the policies they favor in order to be able to use the words that test well, and then mistakenly believe that the underlying policies are actually popular.
Hmmm....I seem to have made a completely unrelated point. I guess because Drum hit the main point here perfectly. I guess the only thing I'd add to it is that I wouldn't assume that regulatory complexity in order to address specific interests is necessarily a bad thing. It can be -- it's generally not good for public resources to be transferred to a particular group just because they've found a way to get political clout -- but in a continental nation of 300 millions, it's quite likely that simple, one-size-fit-all rules won't be as good as rules that can adjust for the many, many particular circumstances out there.
At any rate: Great post, and great catch!