Report: Congress Using Smaller Words to Yell at Each Other This Year

  our nation's leaders

Here is an important Monday newsflash to cruelly ruin any budding sense of optimism you may have had about the week: Congress is talking more dumber, new study proves it. The somewhat ironic-sounding “Sunlight Foundation” fished through the daily mosh pits of word battle waged in Congress from 2005 to the present and found that the overall level of oratory in the nation’s most elevated chambers of governance flunked itself back an entire grade level from 11.5 to 10.6 in that time. Just thank Space Jesus they didn’t factor in Chuck Grassley’s Twitter account, okay?

No confirmed reports on exactly why the grade level has dropped, but:

[W]e can immediately notice that grade level of Congressional Record speeches declines among Republicans as the voting record becomes more conservative. Among Republicans, the drop from the most moderate to most conservative is, on average, almost three whole grade levels, from 13th to 10th grade.

Among Democrats, the scatterplot does not reveal any relationship between grade level and ideology. However, when we hold all other factors constant in the regression analysis, we find that the most being on the far left is associated with lower speech grade levels. There is also a clearer correlation between further left voting score and lower grade level among more junior members.

And now for fun we shall add a list of the members Congress with the ten lowest speech grade levels:

1. Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) — 7.95
2. Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) — 8.02
3. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) — 8.04
4. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) — 8.09
5. Rep. W. Todd Akin (R-MO) — 8.14
6. Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR) — 8.13
7. Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) — 8.44
8. Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA) — 8.60
9. Rep. Dave Schweikert (R-AZ) — 8.61
10. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) — 8.62

Is there a trend, there? Perhaps. We are Not Allowed to mock this obvious point, however, as wingnuts will be quick to point out that President Barack Obama’s State of the Union scored an eighth grade reading level badge. Although in fairness, we might also speculate that this would have been so that all of the members of Congress would be able to understand it.

[Sunlight Foundation; thanks to Wonkette operative "Jus_Wonderin"]

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142 comments

  1. actor212

    Dumber Congresscritters from the South.

    Come ON! Does ANYone think this isn't related to the Teabagger Congresscritters that cropped up like fungi????

    1. WunkRocker

      That is an affront to fungi everywhere. Even those that sprout on cow-pies (not to be confused with turd blossoms). Once Nyki Haley gets the SACS accreditation thrown out of the Palmetto state, it's ON! Bob Jones will be the only Uni left.

      1. actor212

        I was being metaphorical, of course, and comparing the sudden sprouting of these numbnuts with the overnight appearance of fungi.

        I would never demean fungi, which have a use, by comparing them qualitatively to Teabaggers.

    1. noodlesalad

      Followed by "The Governator: Alaskan Gold Rush." And on Sunday, a very special episode of "To Catch a Predator: Republican Rent Boy edition."

  2. noodlesalad

    There are three things wrong with this survey. One is department of educashun. Two is communism. The third one, I forget. Whoops.

    1. Callyson

      The third one is the onerous tax burden Nobama imposes on the job creators, closely followed by #4, the overly burdensome regulations on the financial and natural resource extraction industries…

  3. BarackMyWorld

    Aren't newspapers usually written at a fifth grade level? Or just the shitty ones?

  4. Jus_Wonderin

    I thought I'd get a tip credit for this one. GRIN. I heard it on NPR this morning.

      1. Jus_Wonderin

        Awwww. Now I am embarrassed. Thanks!! That's what getting up at 4:30 gets me.

          1. SorosBot

            No, it looks like there are other poor souls forced out of bed at that horrid hour.

          2. Jus_Wonderin

            Well, the alarm is set for 5. But the dogs…they are set for between 3 and 4.

    1. fuflans

      i heard it too and immediately thought of wonkette but then assumed someone else would do it for me.

      i am a liberal.

  5. actor212

    we find that the most being on the far left is associated with lower speech grade levels.

    Um, Sunlight Foundation?

    I, uh, don't usually criticize experts in their fields, but I'm pretty adept at English and, well, your grammar in this sentence sucks AND the number doesn't agree…"the most…is associated"?

    1. noodlesalad

      I think it's always grammatically correct to make a point about libruls also being stupid, even if it contradicts the obvious point of the story. Grammar is agin liburls.

    2. Chichikovovich

      Naw, it's some kind of Hegelian point. The far left has the "most Being" (though they forgot to capitalize it) and this big whacking clump of Being is associated with lower speech grade levels.

      Can't say that I agree, but it makes more sense than most of what appears in The Phenomenology of Spirit.

      So you retract that vile slander against the Sunlight foundation's grammar right now!

      1. radio-of-owls

        I find that the most comment being is disassociated on far, left!

        Back take you're remand for a retractoring!

      2. swordfis

        I think a lot of those congressmen should spend some time with the Master/Slave Dialectic. And then go home.

  6. MissTaken

    There's no way they are speechifying at a 10th grade level. Schoolhouse Rock is for 7 year olds and these asshats still can't figure out how to apply "I'm Just A Bill" to their work.

          1. Chichikovovich

            I'm just a bit distracted from grading Student's t-tests. (See, I'm even stuttering!)

    1. BarackMyWorld

      They couldn't determine it. When they entered her speeches, the computer exploded.

    2. SorosBot

      Has she even been in Congress to give any speeches for the past year while off on her insane quixotic run for President?

  7. smokefilledroommate

    I refuse to believe that Trent Franks scored on a 12th grade level. They must have given him pity points for his cleft face.
    (I know that's mean, but I hate that fucking prick).

  8. Callyson

    Also, deadbeat dad Joe Walsh checks in with 8.91. See, that's why he's not paying his child support: the agreement just uses too many fancy words like "Legal obligation." Totally not his fault!

    1. Jus_Wonderin

      As a father that did pay child support, on time, EVEN when I was unemployed…I think Walsh is a dickwad. It is also a MORAL obligation but that would require morals…I guess.

    1. Callyson

      Francis Bacon, Edmund Burke, William Congreve, Oliver Goldsmith, James Joyce, Frank O'Connor, John O'Keefe, George Bernard Shaw, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and William Butler Yeats have some choice words for Duffy…

    2. __kth__

      Sean Duffy was the douche from The Real World: Boston (though maybe "douche from The Real World" doesn't narrow things down much), so maybe that's when he started talking Moronese (or maybe his fluency thereof is why he was cast).

  9. BaldarTFlagass

    "No confirmed reports on exactly why the grade level has dropped"

    Tea party.

  10. johnnyzhivago

    At this rate in 4-5 years Congress will stop talking entirely and sit around all day screaming for their mommy, wetting their diapers and throwing things at each other.

    Wait a minute – they already do that!

  11. pinkocommi

    I find it helps when talking to Teatards to limit myself to four-letter words, so this makes perfect sense.

  12. Lionel[redacted]Esq

    That is the problem with you elites and your words. You need to go with what your gut tells you if you are going to properly rule this country!

  13. Chichikovovich

    Can I add a cranky parade-raining note? Judging the quality of thought by the "grade level" of the vocabulary is dumb. Daniel Webster the Lesser's every utterance would be just as moronic if it were delivered with an English professor's vocabulary.

    [Though I've no doubt that were we to consider a sampling of the sentences produced by the Solons listed above, we would come to the conclusion that the word-counting algorithm does.]

    1. fuflans

      when i heard this story i immediately informed the man on the radio that some of the most profound writing is the simplest (howl, howl, howl, to be or not to be, the centre cannot hold, come live with me and be my love, practically anything of churchill's).

      still!! way to mock wingtards!

      1. Chichikovovich

        Very true – and those are great examples. It's true at the non-masters level too. It is a constant struggle to wean my first year undergrads from the idea that intelligent prose must "sound fancy" with lots of multisyllable words they don't quite understand. Simple words and classic style please: if it worked for David Hume, it'll work for you too.

  14. SayItWithWookies

    Hey all you congresspeople representing the stupid people? You can stop now.

  15. MissTaken

    When I was just a LilTaken I had a set of alphabet letters and would 'make' words on the refrigerator. I'd use lots and lots of letters and then I'd ask mom "Is this a word?". Mom would always reply "No."

    My mom should give lessons to Congress on what is not a word.

    1. Jus_Wonderin

      We had those for our daughter. We learned she was a prodigy at a very early age when she spelled out "Get me my damn formula. Now!"

  16. actor212

    The regression analysis is very frightening. I forsee a day in the near future when Republicans in Congress will communicate by making artificial farts in their armpits.

  17. TootsStansbury

    Well this is just terrible. I could barely contain my budding sense of optimism until I saw this post.

    1. Wile E. Quixote

      Hey, for a guy who has his cheeks stuffed full of used feminine hygiene products he steals out of the bins of the women's restroom Joe Lieberman does a good job communicating the needs of AIPAC and the insurance industry.

  18. Come here a minute

    Tea Partiers don't need your fancy grade-levels, or book-larnin', to know how to fuck up the country.

  19. elviouslyqueer

    So every Congressmoron speech should now begin "My fellow idiots," amirite?

    Oh, wait.

  20. Mumbletypeg

    "Reading is fundemental" but your least-scoring Congress-dipshits would like you to know that writing yields too little 'fun' and requires too much 'mental.'

  21. elviouslyqueer

    Now hold on just a goldurned minute here. All the Mississippi Congressional folk scored above the 10th-grade level? Something must be seriously wrong with Sunlight's scoring methodology.

  22. Eve8Apples

    The number is even more depressing when you realize paid lobbyists are writing most of the b.s. that is spewed on the House floor. Someone is paying lobbyists to write insane babble and elected members of Congress are stupid enough to stand up and read the nonsense into the Congressional Record.

  23. BaldarTFlagass

    I guess this really should come as no surprise. It's not like these Congressmen guys are a bunch of Poindexters, like in the Senate.

  24. shortsandpants

    Literacy for the written word is atrocious in the south, unless that there sign reads "whites only."

  25. glamourdammerung

    After living in two very "red" states where I was called an "elitist" for having finished high school, I am having a hard time pretending to be surprised here.

      1. Butch_Wagstaff

        People used to accuse me of "talkin' proper" when I still lived in small towns in Virginia. They never could believe that I hadn't gone to college (I dropped out of HS & got a GED). I think the way I spoke was the result of watching so much TV when I was a kid.

        1. glamourdammerung

          I went to college though. I had folks doing this stuff when I was 17-18, which was even more perplexing.

          1. Butch_Wagstaff

            It always annoyed the hell out of me (the comments on how I spoke). It wasn't deliberate. I just happened to pick it up. Same way that I find myself, being older now, dropping colloquialisms I grew with up with into how I speak.

  26. CivicHoliday

    Good god in heaven, not that I'm surprised, but we've got TWO from Missouri on the list. My state representatives are not exactly what you'd call models of exemplary political thought. Particularly because they do not understand what exemplary means.

  27. MissTaken

    Ah damn, I just noticed that my Rep Garamendi is #15, and the first Dem to make the list. I can haz cheezburger, too?

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