That brings us to the elimination of NSF funding for political science, which includes money for the essential scholarly building block for studying public opinion, the National Election Study. I have no grants from NSF. I retain my interest in solid political science research, but my objections to the Flake amendment are more fundamental than quibbles over particular studies, or even the worth to the society of this research at all, or of Flake’s argument that rich universities, where most of the scholars who get NSF grants reside, can fund the work themselves.
Rather, the key question here is an intrusive government, via a set of politicians, throwing grenades into a carefully designed and balanced peer-review process for scientists, physical and social, to determine what research benefits society enough to use some taxpayer funds.
This truly is a slippery slope — political science one day, climate research the next, biological research after that and so on, depending on the ideology and demagogic capacity of the majorities in Congress at any given time.
Flake is more intellectually honest in his desire to cut spending and cut deficits than many of his colleagues. But this is a truly misguided step toward ham-handed government interference in science.
I can’t end without mentioning the Senate, which decided stupidity should not be limited to the House.
After the salutary effort at compromise involving House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) resulted in a rare bipartisan vote in the House to fund the Export-Import Bank, the Senate stopped the effort in its tracks on a filibuster, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) caved to the shrill demands of Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) yet again.
I suppose I shouldn’t complain; all of these actions are going to help sales of my new book with Tom Mann. But I would gladly give up some sales in return for some sanity on Capitol Hill.
Norman Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
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