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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.

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.

Moreover, its part of a much broader pattern.

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.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The GOP is expert at ridiculing any expenditure... (13+ / 0-)

    made in the name of research, or filling an information void not being filled by the private sector.

    And frankly they get away with it because a gullible public is happy to embrace, amplify and pass on whatever distortions the GOP puts out there.

    A guy I used to work with, reasonably intelligent, was one of their biggest conduits. On a daily basis he'd come to work with something like, "did ya here the government is going to spend $50 billion to study the sex life of soybeans?"

    Being the good progressive I am, I'd take the time to find out what the hell he was talking about and it would typically be a fraction of the cost he stated and it was aimed at a technology that could potentially feed millions of starving people or the like.

    I'm not completely embarrassed to admit that last month he caught me on a bad day and I informed him straight up that I intended to kick his teabagger ass if he ever told me another lie.

    •  Absolutely (9+ / 0-)

      They have no idea where the funding goes or the eventual benefits of the projects, but research is easy to ridicule.

      For example, in between his efforts to de-fund Political Science, Sen. Coburn expressed some concerns about the decline in congressional oversight:

      Data from the University of Texas at Austin shows a more gradual but steady decline in Congress’ hearing load since the early 1980’s, despite the increase in budgets and congressional staff size. In the 96th Congress (1979-1980) there were nearly 4,000 hearings held during the session. Today, the numbers rarely reach 3,000 and are frequently closer to 2,500. The single biggest decline came in the 104th Congress (1995-1996), which saw activity drop sharply by more than one thousand hearings, but the numbers have never quite recovered.
      It just so happens that the data Coburn cited were originally collected with the support of a grant from NSF--making it the very type of research that will now be banned from receiving funding.

      "Politics is what we do, politics is what we create, by what we work for, by what we hope for and what we dare to imagine." -Paul Wellstone

      by WellstoneDem on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 08:33:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  As long as the Director can read, and is honest, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tofumagoo, Shockwave

    getting any research funded  should be easy.

    "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."
    An ignorant, enslaved populace is only in the interests of the GOP's owners, not the nation.

    I propose that any future Director candidate of NSF be required to give a cogent definition of "ethics", "compassion"
    or other liberal conspiracy code word as proof of competence.

    the doctrine that all men are equal applies only upwards, not downwards. Bertrand Russel

    by Wood Gas on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 08:42:57 PM PDT

    •  Um. How can it be proof of competence (0+ / 0-)

      when the GOPers lie as easily and as often as they drink water/beer/whiskey?

      Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

      by Youffraita on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 12:26:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I met with a scientist at a lecture... (6+ / 0-)

    ...on the Higgs boson confirmation last Saturday.

    He had been a professor of science at the University of Alabama but moved to California to teach at UC Irvine.  He told me about how difficult it was to teach anything that conflicted with creationism.  He was essentially black balled.

    The Republican religious right base in the South is not interested in science.  The Big Bang and Evolution were frowned upon.  I imagine that Plate Tectonics would also be a problem.

    Anything that went against Earth being created by God more than 10,000 years ago would be shunned.

    These fundamentalist Christians control the GOP as far as science goes.  Welcome to the anti-science party.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 09:14:29 PM PDT

    •  Agreed: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shockwave, NancyWH
      These fundamentalist Christians control the GOP as far as science goes.  Welcome to the anti-science party.
      Unfortunately the Dover decision doesn't seem to apply outside of PA, much.

      And I would LOVE to argue that the idiots will fail to prevail...however, history doesn't support that sentiment.

      GOP=Dark Ages Mentality

      with much, much more than a soupcon of religious dogma to keep all the serfs in their degraded place.

      Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

      by Youffraita on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 12:36:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's that time again (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Welcome to the start of the new "Dark Ages".

    Anything that competes with Dogma is ridiculed, excommunicated, and burned.

    Wait a minute, didn't we used to ridicule the Soviet Union for putting scientists and intellectuals into gulags? The NSDAP for book burnings? I guess the old is new again for the GOP. Boy isn't America.... "Exceptional"?

    You have your right to your opinion, I will grant you that, but do not denigrate my right to mine!

    by MrQA on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 04:16:42 AM PDT

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