PENCE LOOKS BACK TO THE FUTURE…. I’ve noted several times over the last month or so that the Republican Party, while contemplating how to pull itself out of its ditch, should probably start coming up with some kind of policy agenda it can present to voters. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), a radio talk-show host turned politician, who was recently elected the chairman of the House Republican Conference, thinks he’s up to the task.

In an op-ed for the far-right Washington Times this week, Pence, who has a tendency to be strikingly dim-witted, lays out a vision for his party. (via Yglesias)

Ideas like a balanced budget amendment, school-choice vouchers, health savings accounts and welfare reform should take center stage in the Republican agenda. And we must have a vision for defending the cherished values of life and marriage whenever they come under attack from the courts, the new administration or congressional liberals. […]

If Democrats are true to their campaign promises, Republicans will have the opportunity to take a stand on behalf of the American people — to give Americans more access to American oil, to preserve secret-ballot elections in the workplace, to defeat Fairness Doctrine censorship on the airwaves of talk radio and to defeat any effort to overturn reasonable restrictions on abortion at the state level.

Let’s quickly take Pence’s policy ideas one at a time.

* A “balanced budget amendment”: A discredited idea from over a decade ago, which would be blisteringly stupid in the current financial crisis.

* “School-choice vouchers”: A discredited idea from over two decades ago, which even conservative activists are giving up on.

* “Welfare reform”: This already happened, 12 years ago.

Pence throws in some predictable shout-outs to drilling the coasts, undermining unions, restricting abortion rights, and waging a battle against the imaginary forces anxious to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.

The #3 person in the House Republican leadership, in other words, doesn’t have new ideas, or even coherent ones. Pence just wants to recycle some old talking points, and label it a “vision.”

It’s called intellectual bankruptcy, and it’s not pretty.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.