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CAP at Ten, and the Enduring Think Tank Gap

David Callahan

Not long ago, there were barely any progressive think tanks -- and certainly none on par with the Heritage Foundation. When Demos started in 1999, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities was the biggest policy shop around, but steered clear -- and still does -- of entire issue areas, like foreign policy and the environment. 

Flash forward to this week, when the Center for American Progress celerated its ten-year anniversary -- and its huge success in finally creating a rough equivalent on the left to the Heritage Foundation. Meanwhile, Demos has become an established national player, along with the Roosevelt Institute, a revitalized Century Foundation, and the New America Foundation, which does much good progressive work while not embracing an ideological identity. The Economic Policy Institute is also bigger and better than ever. 

So we have come a long way. Alas, though, there is a still gigantic gap in think tank capacity between progressives and conservatives. Heritage's budget has now grown to around $80 million a year, making it twice as well-funded as CAP. CATO and AEI have budgets three times as large as Demos and EPI. 

So hats off to CAP for creating a powerful a new progressive institution. But let's not forget about the work that still needs to be done to strengthen the progressive policy infrastructure.