You may have heard that Congress passed an appropriations bill today to keep the government running through the end of September.
You probably haven't heard that the GOP successfully attached an amendment to the must-pass bill to continue their long-running war on information. What are they protecting the American people from this time? Political Science.
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The GOP has been trying to kill the National Science Foundation's Political Science program for several years. While they were unable to completely end the program, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) successfully attached an amendment to the appropriations bill to severely limit the subjects eligible for research funding.
The provision included in the final legislation reads:
To prohibit the use of funds to carry out the functions of the Political Science Program in the Division of Social and Economic Sciences of the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences of the National Science Foundation, except for research projects that the Director of the National Science Foundation certifies as promoting national security or the economic interests of the United States.So what kind of information did the GOP decide the American people could do without?
Senator Coburn: "Studies of presidential executive power and Americans' attitudes toward the Senate filibuster hold little promise to save an American's life from a threatening condition or to advance America's competitiveness in the world."OK then. "We don't need no stinkin' information about the (deteriorating) state of American democracy."
While this may not seem like a huge deal in and of itself, it sets a terrible precedent.
As the American Political Science Association notes:
Adoption of this amendment is a gross intrusion into the widely-respected, independent scholarly agenda setting process at NSF that has supported our world-class national science enterprise for over sixty years.Moreover, its part of a much broader pattern.
The amendment creates an exceptionally dangerous slippery slope. While political science research is most immediately affected, at risk is any and all research in any and all disciplines funded by the NSF. The amendment makes all scientific research vulnerable to the whims of political pressure.
When the GOP didn't care for the information on science and technology coming out of the congressional support agency known as the Office of Technology Assessment, New Gingrich killed the agency.
In an effort to head off any sort of gun control efforts, the GOP forbid the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from carrying out any research of gun-related violence.
Last fall, when the Congressional Research Service issued a report on tax rates the GOP found inconvenient, Senate Republicans exerted pressure on the agency to have it pulled.
Access to high-quality information is absolutely essential for what President Obama called the "hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government." Apparently, its also incompatible with the Republican project.