The Problem With the "Ideas Factory."

A number of people have done a Nelson Muntz "Ha-ha!" at House Minority Whip Eric Cantor's announcement that his "ideas factory," called the National Council for a New America, is shutting down one year after its launch, after doing not much of anything. But you've got to have some sympathy for him. The organization's goal of developing "innovative solutions that meet the serious challenges confronting our country" is not easy. After all, Republicans pretty much know what they want to do: cut taxes; cut some kinds of government spending, like on social services, but increase others, like on defense; keep gay people from destroying the American family with their sordid schemes like "marriage" and "commitment"; and cut taxes. And did I mention cutting taxes?

If you're going to come up with innovative twists on those ideas, it's going to require a lot of time, energy, and money. And Cantor already has a day job to worry about. Ideas are hard; new ideas are harder still; and new ideas that actually could be translated into policy are really, really hard. The right already has a few "ideas factories," the most prominent of which, the Heritage Foundation (according to their 2008 tax form, available here), employs about 500 people and had a 2008 budget of $64.6 million. And they can't even come up with anything new and innovative.

So don't feel bad, Congressman. It's not that you failed -- it's probably that you shouldn't have tried in the first place.

-- Paul Waldman

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