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Tilting at Windmills

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October 8, 2009

COBURN VS. POLI SCI.... Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is known for picking some odd fights, but his new dispute hits a little close to home: he wants to cut off all federal funding for political science research.

The National Science Foundation subsidizes some research into political science, and Coburn introduced a measure yesterday to eliminate the funding altogether. Proving that the right-wing senator has no real understanding of what political science is, Coburn said in a statement, "Americans who have an interest in electoral politics can turn to CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, the print media, and a seemingly endless number of political commentators on the Internet."

In particular, Coburn criticized NSF grants for poli sci because Paul Krugman once got one. And the Nobel laureate is bad. Or something.

Krugman responded to this earlier today.

Um, I'm not a political scientist. Also, I can't quite remember when I last received NSF support, but it has to be at least 20 years ago -- and it was, of course, for work on international trade, work that, you know, won me a Clark Medal and that other prize. So the standard seems to be that if anyone ever supported by the NSF expresses liberal political opinions decades later, that discredits the program.

But much worse is the way Coburn singles out support for the American National Election Studies as a boondoggle. As I said, I'm not a political scientist -- but I've done enough data-surveying to know that the ANES is a treasure trove of information that can't be found anywhere else -- certainly not, as Coburn suggests, on CNN, Fox, and MSNBC. Of course, it's obvious from what Coburn says that neither he nor anyone on his staff even bothered to look at what the ANES does.

Now, Coburn is not, you might say, the most rational member of the Senate. Still, this is worrying: social science research is important, and doesn't need to face these kinds of know-nothing attacks.

The American Political Science Association isn't exactly a lobbying powerhouse, but it's trying to rally some opposition to the Coburn effort. Crooked Timber, Andrew Gelman, and Dan Drezner have more.

Coburn's amendment may come up for a vote today. Stay tuned.

Steve Benen 11:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (29)

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The Republicans are the Know-Nothings of their era.

And they keep on proving it, over and over. And nobody in the media says "whoa, wait a minute, this is too stupid for words."

Posted by: zhak on October 8, 2009 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

It would be nice if the D's would treat each R measure as they treat ours, all votes no. They folded like a cheap suit for ACORN and I wouldn't be surprised if they continue that trend.

Didn't the WM report that republicans were moving aids from policy to PR ? This is the non-sense resulting from that move. More to come I am sure.

Posted by: ScottW on October 8, 2009 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

>"The Republicans are the Know-Nothings of their era. "

Sadly, this is a reflection of a substantial portion of the electorate.

Posted by: Buford on October 8, 2009 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

This is all pretty straight forward. Republicans are slowly trying to dismantle education in the US. It's actually brilliant when you think about it. keep the electorate ignorant. This ensures that they will believe any pap they are fed (death pannels anyone?). Think about it, 50 years from now the Rethugs will have a slobering ignorant electorate and control the White House and Congress in a death grip. Every problem that arises will be the fault of those liberals and gays. Best part is that since the drooling masses are getting all of their info from Faux News and the Conservative News Network, they'll believe it.

Posted by: Liam J on October 8, 2009 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

He'll get 40 votes.

Wait...Ben Nelson...make that 41.

Posted by: Stetson Kennedy on October 8, 2009 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

It is entities such as this Coburn bloke who are extending the red carpet to our Chinese masters...as Krugman might see it.

We are a stoopid dying empire being prevented from becoming a bright and decent society by the stoopid, fearful and hateful.

Posted by: neill on October 8, 2009 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Naturally liberals want to fund academics who agrees with their pet theories.

Contrast this with their hostility to teaching values and intelligent design in the schools.

Posted by: Al on October 8, 2009 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

GOP=Head up the ass party.
Al=incredibly poor parody or prime example of head up ass.

Posted by: Gandalf on October 8, 2009 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

The sad thing is, ten years ago, he'd be a laughing stock, and quickly move to deny or "clarify" his statement. Now, it's just treated as yet another valid viewpoint.

Posted by: Kevin Ray on October 8, 2009 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

It goes beyond "education". This is part of a long term strategy to sever all connection with empirical fact.

There can be no reality based community without access to reality. Then we can all live in the Matrix :)

Posted by: ask2 on October 8, 2009 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

"Not only has Political Science benefited the liberal economic policies of Paul Krugman," continued the Oklahoma senator, "but it also has the word science in it. And we all know what that means."

Posted by: inkadu on October 8, 2009 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

Naturally, Al talks out of his ass about a subject of which he knows nothing.

Why do Republicans have such a fear of knowledge?

Posted by: Singularity on October 8, 2009 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

Well, it's all great fun to feed the republican-hating circlejerk, but... wtf is the NSF doing funding political science? It isn't science!

Posted by: am on October 8, 2009 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

Lame, but social science research has eaten everything else. No one does any analysis from any other kind of perspective anymore. Maybe that's fine for science but for I guess fluffier things like music/art/movies it's kind of sad.

Posted by: MNPundit on October 8, 2009 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

am -- NSF funds "Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences". Maybe that's why.

Posted by: jeri on October 8, 2009 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

My take on this is that we all have to pretend we're on the movie set of the Night of the Living Dead.

Posted by: rbe1 on October 8, 2009 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

"al" and "am" negate the theory that nonintellectuals do not read this blog. Those two examples certainly do!

Posted by: captain dan on October 8, 2009 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

How about we stop funding all NSF funding to investigators from OK ?

Posted by: bigwisc on October 8, 2009 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

No, don't stop NSF funding from going to OK. Instead, tell NSF to create a science center in OK.

Studying "Adult-Onset Mental Retardation".

Name it after Coburn, of course.

Posted by: Snarki, child of Loki on October 8, 2009 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

All the old guard will be gone before long. The only problem is, so might all of us. The voters in their states are going to destroy them for what they are doing to the people. The pollsters are partisan. They get paid by partisans to create their polls. It is fiction of a very low form.

Posted by: bird on October 8, 2009 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Coburn's dimness reminds me of the old joke:

Q. What do you call the person who graduated last in his class at medical school?

A. Doctor.

Posted by: melissa on October 8, 2009 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with Coburn.

Political science is easily the junkiest of the academic social sciences. It produces nothing of interest to anyone not a poli sci faculty member or grad student. No politician or journalist reads poli sci journals, and for all I know, neither does any public official.

(Actually, the reason political scientists respect David Broder is he used to be the one Washington political writer who once in a while paid attention to academic political science. But that was 25 years ago.)

With academic political science serving no public interest nor advancing the public good, there's no reason for NSF to fund its research. Let's redirect the funds to more socially useful projects.

Posted by: Cash on October 8, 2009 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

Hell, I'm still trying to figure out how Coburn wasn't charged with promoting prostitution for telling Sen. John Ensign to 'pay off' his mistress...

Posted by: Brian on October 8, 2009 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Coburn's dimness reminds me of the old joke:

Q. What do you call the person who graduated last in his class at medical school?

A. Doctor.

trex and I have enjoyed this old favorite at the expense of our resident dim doc, Mike K. Dumber than a box of rocks is he.

Posted by: shortstop on October 8, 2009 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Krugman: Of course, it's obvious from what Coburn says that neither he nor anyone on his staff even bothered to look at what the ANES does.

So, a blowhard right-wing Senator idiotically spouting off about something he knows absolutely nothing about? I'm shocked, shocked!

Posted by: electrolite on October 8, 2009 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

Contrast this with their hostility to teaching values and intelligent design in the schools. - Al

Hey Al, believe me, schools teach a lot of values in math classes and just because something has the word 'intelligent' in its name doesn't make it a requirement for the curriculum.

As a matter of fact, teaching 'intelligent design' would be the fastest way back to evidence-free medieval punditry posing as learnedness.

But you're right, who needs to learn about the scientific principle of falsification if you're already in possession of the absolute truth.

Posted by: SRW1 on October 8, 2009 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Don't you see?

This is just like the Congressman back in the 1880s who wanted to close down the U.S. Patent Office, because everything that needed to be invented had already been invented.

To Coburn, all political science research that will ever need being done has already been done: Reagonomics and Conservatism have answered everything, for all time.

We are fortunate to live in such advanced times, right at the maxima of every and all political curves; we now merely need to retain the progress that has been made. We can't afford to let any Liberal ideas creep in and spoil everything. So, close the door and don't let any more ideas in. It would be only prudent.

It is wonderful we have such an outstanding representative watching out for us.

Posted by: SteveGinIL on October 8, 2009 at 9:23 PM | PERMALINK

As a political science major I am somewhat disheartened by the pile-on. Of course, international security doesn't matter at all, much the same way it won't matter when the world erupts in nuclear war. Additionally, studies of democratization and social movements don't matter at all because dissidents in Iran will never move against their theocratic government. I hope my sarcasm brings the point home, but just in case, Coburn doesn't have a freaking clue!

Posted by: Chris on October 14, 2009 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

I would say the Family is behind everything Coburn does. They all want us, the masses, to be stupid so that they can dominate us. And yet, the only ones being dominated by the likes of Coburn and the Family are those stupid enough to buy into their bag of.Yet, they continue and will continue to try to accomplish their goal of total control in the name of Jesus plus none....

valentines day gifts

Posted by: lokenkristianna on December 14, 2009 at 5:53 AM | PERMALINK



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