Congressman Flake’s Remarks

by John Sides on May 10, 2012 · 17 comments

in Political Science News

Here are Congressman Jeff Flake’s opening remarks in the brief debate over his amendment to defund the NSF political science program:

The nation is closing in on a $16 trillion debt; deficit, more than $1.3 trillion. Nearly 40 cents of every dollar we spend is borrowed. Congress can either continue funding unnecessary programs like someone is printing cash in the basement, or we can face facts that there simply isn’t enough money to go around.

Now, I stand here today and I’ll defend responsible Federal spending on matters of Federal responsibility. Among other things, Congress ought to ensure funding for strong national defense, a secure border.

There are things, however, given the economic realities, that Congress ought to reconsider funding on the back of future generations. Just remember, every dollar we’re spending in discretionary spending this year, we are borrowing from our kids and our grandkids.

Let me simply say I can think of few finer examples to cut than the National Science Foundation’s Political Science Program. According to the NSF Web site, to date, more than $80 million has been awarded to the program’s nearly 200 active projects. Three-quarters of these awards, totaling over $46 million, were directed to universities with endowments greater than $1 billion.

Again, three-quarters of these awards under this program for political science research, totaling over $46 million, were directed to universities that have endowments greater than $1 billion.

Think about it. Three out of the four of the grants awarded by the NSF Political Science Program go to the wealthiest universities in the country. Would those who would oppose this amendment have believed that Harvard and Yale would have to close their political science departments if Federal grants are not available for this program? Of course not. These universities and the field of political science will be just fine.

However, my greatest concern is not who received these funds, but how they are spent. Every dollar Congress spends is money we don’t have, as I mentioned.

So what kind of research is NSF charging to our credit card? $700,000 to develop a new model for international climate change analysis; $600,000 to try to figure out if policymakers actually do what citizens want them to do.

Let me say that again: $600,000 here spent trying to figure out if policymakers actually do what citizens want them to do. I think we can answer that question in about 5 minutes when we vote on this amendment because I can tell you, people out there want us to quit funding projects like this.

$301,000 to study gender and political ambition among high school and college students; $200,000 to study to determine why political candidates make vague statements. $200,000 to study why political candidates make vague statements. That’s what we’re paying for here.

These studies might satisfy the curiosities of a few academics, but I seriously doubt society will benefit from them. How can we justify this outcome?

Now, I hold a graduate degree in political science myself. I agree that such research has its benefits. The work of political scientists advances the knowledge and understanding of citizenship and government, politics, and this shouldn’t be minimized. But they shouldn’t be subsidized by the National Science Foundation.

We can’t continue to spend money like this. I urge adoption of the amendment and yield back the balance of my time.

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