Tom Coburn can backward induce

We are a few days late to comment on the story of Senator Tom Coburn's amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Bill to cut all National Science Foundation funding for the political science program and any of its missions. Choice quote (of which there are many): " is difficult, even for the most creative scientist, to link NSF's political science findings to the advancement of cures to cancer or any other disease." Snap.

This has received attention from the social science community and others. Even Paul Krugman, mentioned in Coburn's press release as an example of (wasteful? political?) NSF funding, has something to say about it. There's no need to rehash the arguments here, which ever-so-nicely point out that Senator Coburn doesn't really know what he's talking about nor do his arguments make a whole lot of sense.

Regardless of the arguments, I just wanted to put a graph up to put all of this in perspective. In the 111th Congress, Coburn has had very little success with his amendments:
Seven of the rejections are instances when Coburn's amendment was tabled without discussion. Most of the rejections have been of proposed budget cuts or banning funds from certain projects And this is just in this year. Out of all the roll call votes on Coburn-sponsored amendments in the Senate over his tenure, only 8 out of 68 have actually passed.

I understand trying to tackle his critiques, as they track with an internal debate already in the discipline. But I think it may be a tad knee-jerk to start letter-writing campaigns to our Senators. Tom Coburn knows that putting out no-win amendments is a great way to take positions in the Senate without committing to anything. Minority amendments are a costless signal of the blandest kind--even a political scientist can see that.

Posted by Matt Blackwell at October 9, 2009 12:21 PM