Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has been trying to block the National Science Foundation from funding political science research for years. A few years ago, Coburn was quoted as saying:
"Theories on political behavior are best left to CNN, pollsters, pundits, historians, candidates, political parties, and the voters, rather than being funded out of taxpayers’ wallets."
Coburn proposed an amendment to this year's continuing resolution barring projects not of explicit use to national security or national economic interests from receiving NSF money. The resolution was approved by a voice vote on March 26.
Coburn's contempt for political science as a discipline was clear from his statement following the amendment's passage.
"There is no reason to spend $251,000 studying Americans' attitudes toward the U.S. Senate when citizens can figure that out for free," he said.
This assumes that the only value of any science, perhaps of any academic discipline at all, is what concrete benefit it provides. American Political Science Association president Jane Mansbridge wrote in a letter to Senator Coburn, "Political science is the only discipline devoted to learning how to make democracies work better."
During Saturday's "Go Figure" segment, host Melissa Harris-Perry—herself a tenured political science professor at Tulane University—pointed out that the NSF's funding is an essential resource for helping increase diversity among political science faculty.
Watch the clip from Saturday's Melissa Harris-Perry above.