Mitt Romney criticized President Obama's health-care reforms and other regulations that some small businesses find burdensome during a campaign stop Monday at a Costa Mesa manufacturing plant.
The presumptive Republican nominee, who met with business owners and executives at the Endural LLC plastic container plant, said health-care reform and other regulations are stifling businesses and, in turn, slowing job growth.
"It's not just about getting the bad guys, of which there are a few, but also helping the good guys, encouraging entrepreneurs, understanding how hard it is to start a business, grow a business, help it live and thrive," he said.
The former Massachusetts governor suggested that lifelong government employees do not understand the needs of private business owners.
"I happen to think that for people who have spent their entire livelihood working in government, they sometimes don't appreciate just how hard it is to start a business, grow a business, maintain a business," Romney said.
He also called on his opponent to meet more often with the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, a nonpartisan panel of business leaders aimed at helping the White House grow the economy.
"I guess in the last six months he's done 109 fundraisers. He's found time for that," Romney said. "I suggest between the fundraisers, get together with the jobs council and learn from people who are working hard to create jobs."
Romney found himself in friendly territory, speaking to 10 or so handpicked business owners and executives.
Those who gathered for what was billed as a business roundtable agreed that the demands of the health-care reforms, which are being phased in, could prevent them from hiring.
John McDermott, chief executive Endologix in Irvine, said the Affordable Care Act's 2.3% tax on medical devices like those manufactured by his company could increase his business expenses by up to $1 million.
That means he may not hire up to 50 new employees in the near future.
"It forces us to re-think our business, slow down potentially, which I think everyone here at this table doesn't want to do," he said.
The tax is "an invasive approach to business," Romney said. "When you get 2.3% on top sale, $1 million is extraordinary taxation. Application of a tax to medical devices is going to cost jobs in this country."
Ruth Lopez Novodor, chief executive of Beverly Oncology and Imaging, said she cringed when thinking about the health-care overhaul.
Romney, who rolled up the sleeves of his white dress shirt, said health care should be market-driven to have insurance products "that will lead to the most innovative and creative and be more successful."
"Let the innovators tailor products to the consumers, and let the consumers decide what they like," he said.
Kellie Johnson, owner of Ace Clearwater, a specialty parts manufacturer for government and defense projects, suggested ramping up domestic manufacturing to create more jobs.
She'd also like some tax help. As an independent business owner, she said her company is taxed at the individual rate of 40%.
"That means the profits you earn … 40% is going off to Washington," Romney said. "It's not just going after rich people; it's going after businesses that hire people. It's hard to communicate to folks, get the tax rates down so businesses keep more capital and hire more people."
The event also featured a sign that said, "We did build it" — a jab at a recent comment by the president that private business owners "didn't build that" without help from the government.
About 20 people milled about outside of the Costa Mesa event. Some had cameras but none displayed signs.
Earlier in the day, Romney attended a fundraising breakfast in Irvine. The $1,000-per-person event was at the Hyatt Regency Irvine, according to the Orange County Register.
The fundraiser was Romney's third in Orange County since March. His two previous stops were at the Balboa Bay Club & Resort in Newport Beach and a home in Irvine.
Occupy Orange County canceled a planned protest at the breakfast to stand with Occupy Wall Street as the group mourns in solidarity with the shootings in Aurora, Colo., according to an email.
— Jillian Beck also contributed to this report.
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