OUR NATION'S LEADERS  3:56 pm May 21, 2012

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

by Kirsten Boyd Johnson

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 }

Barb May 21, 2012 at 3:58 pm

John Boehner-slurred speech levels-100%

nounverb911 May 21, 2012 at 3:59 pm

No elitist high school grads wanted here.

MLHencken May 21, 2012 at 3:59 pm

We must ask the question: is our Congresscritters learning?

actor212 May 21, 2012 at 4:07 pm

What? They just has to make the pie higher. No problem.

actor212 May 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Dumber Congresscritters from the South.

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

WunkRocker May 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm

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.

actor212 May 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm

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.

Crank_Tango May 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm

shroom libel!

ChilLysol May 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Coming soon to A&E: "Are You Smarter Than a 1st Term Congressman?"

noodlesalad May 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm

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

James Michael Curley May 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Congrass do good. Me like.

smokefilledroommate May 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm

The first fourteen are all Repubs! Haha–idiots.

nounverb911 May 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Where's Dave Reichert on the the list?

noodlesalad May 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm

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

Callyson May 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm

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…

BarackMyWorld May 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm

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

nounverb911 May 21, 2012 at 4:04 pm

"What's a newspaper"?
–Mick Mulvaney

sewollef May 21, 2012 at 5:13 pm

That would be, 'noospaypa' where he comes from.

flamingpdog May 21, 2012 at 4:11 pm

All of them, Katie.

imissopus May 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm

This study seems to involve some sort of mumbo-jumbo with math and numbers, which we all know are incompatible with Liberty.

anniegetyerfun May 21, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Data = Fascism. And not the good kind, but the liberal kind.

Jus_Wonderin May 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm

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

KBoydJohnson May 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Credit added! You were the first of several to send it in, YOU WIN.

actor212 May 21, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Wait. We can't send these in anonymously AND get credit????

Jus_Wonderin May 21, 2012 at 4:11 pm

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

MissTaken May 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm

See Soros, I'm not the only one that gets up at that ungodly hour!

SorosBot May 21, 2012 at 4:43 pm

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

Jus_Wonderin May 21, 2012 at 4:52 pm

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

fuflans May 21, 2012 at 4:46 pm

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

i am a liberal.

actor212 May 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm

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"?

noodlesalad May 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm

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.

Chichikovovich May 21, 2012 at 4:08 pm

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!

actor212 May 21, 2012 at 4:10 pm

You ought to see what I have to say about their Great Grammar…what a slut!

radio-of-owls May 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm

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

Back take you're remand for a retractoring!

actor212 May 21, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Force the strong is, this with one!

flamingpdog May 21, 2012 at 9:46 pm

I would hope running over them with a tractor once would do the job.

swordfis May 21, 2012 at 9:26 pm

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

radio-of-owls May 21, 2012 at 4:02 pm

T

flamingpdog May 21, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Bless you – a lost meme!

radio-of-owls May 21, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Keepers of the faith memes.

LettucePrey May 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm
smokefilledroommate May 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Dog Bless!
Wait– that does NOT say "God Bless Amercia" does it? Two misspellings on one sign?

Butch_Wagstaff May 21, 2012 at 4:58 pm

That was a plant!

starfanglednut May 21, 2012 at 8:18 pm

Omg, that is teh best! Get a brain, morans!

MissTaken May 21, 2012 at 4:04 pm

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.

radio-of-owls May 21, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Regression analysis indeed.

Chichikovovich May 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Now that's just mean.

radio-of-owls May 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Geez, lighten up. R you a square or something?

starfanglednut May 21, 2012 at 8:19 pm

No, his deviation is standard.

radio-of-owls May 21, 2012 at 8:39 pm

I dunno, he doesn't seem normal to me.

metamarcisf May 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Where does Bachmann rank?

BarackMyWorld May 21, 2012 at 4:08 pm

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

radio-of-owls May 21, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Ha ha ha…oh, wait. I thought you said, "Why is" rather than "Where does."

metamarcisf May 21, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Why is Palin rank?

radio-of-owls May 21, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Yes.

smokefilledroommate May 21, 2012 at 11:29 pm

Is our Palin ranking?

SorosBot May 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm

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

flamingpdog May 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm

She's a US Army Specialist Turd Class.

smokefilledroommate May 21, 2012 at 4:16 pm

A truly rank rank.

Baconzgood May 21, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Potato.

smokefilledroommate May 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Both of 'em are definitely vegetables.

MissTaken May 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Dammit Baconz, you're making me hungry for a "potatoe" with bacon.

BaldarTFlagass May 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm

"Are you smarter than a 8.14th grader?"

ifthethunderdontgetya May 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm

English is a foreign langwich.

Speak Amurkin!
~

swordfis May 21, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Hon, make me a langwich

IncenseDebate May 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Talkin' regular is good fer vote gettin'.

smokefilledroommate May 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm

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).

Callyson May 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm

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!

nounverb911 May 21, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Also he resents that his kids are smarter than he is, also, too.

Jus_Wonderin May 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm

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.

SorosBot May 21, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Congress fail English? That's unpossible!

Baconzgood May 21, 2012 at 4:11 pm

But the learned how to talk it cause theys ain't from not Emerica.

prommie May 21, 2012 at 5:00 pm

I am sure that all of the words they use are perfectly cromulent.

ifthethunderdontgetya May 21, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI)

Way to shame the Irish, ya bum.
~

Callyson May 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm

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…

__kth__ May 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm

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).

Schmannnity May 21, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Fancy Liberal Elite vocabulary got us into this mess.

Aridzona May 21, 2012 at 4:08 pm

See Spot talk. Talk Spot talk.

BaldarTFlagass May 21, 2012 at 4:08 pm

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

Tea party.

Baconzgood May 21, 2012 at 4:10 pm

I can count to potato!

Jus_Wonderin May 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Bacon, you for got the E.

johnnyzhivago May 21, 2012 at 4:10 pm

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!

pinkocommi May 21, 2012 at 4:12 pm

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

Butch_Wagstaff May 21, 2012 at 5:07 pm

Well, you can throw in at least one five-letter word which is: "Obama".

Lionel[redacted]Esq May 21, 2012 at 4:12 pm

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!

Chichikovovich May 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm

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.]

fuflans May 21, 2012 at 4:59 pm

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!

Chichikovovich May 21, 2012 at 9:43 pm

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.

Not_So_Much May 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Every other sentence for these morans includes the term 'derrrp'.

NorthStarSpanx May 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Looks like Joe The Plumber will raise the bar in the House.

CrunchyKnee May 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm

No snark here – but, we truly live in a representative democracy. *sob*

Nostrildamus May 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm

This is good news for Rick Santorum!

SayItWithWookies May 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm

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

MissTaken May 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm

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.

Jus_Wonderin May 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm

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!"

actor212 May 21, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Will it involve spanking? Cuz that could be hot.

SorosBot May 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Y U tell con dress how 2 right?

MissTaken May 21, 2012 at 4:29 pm

They need to do way instain mother.

anniegetyerfun May 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm

This is still about five or six grades higher than I would have guessed.

savethispatient May 21, 2012 at 4:29 pm

They have speech-writers.

Butch_Wagstaff May 21, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Some who went Liverty Unicollege.

actor212 May 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm

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.

TootsStansbury May 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm

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

flamingpdog May 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Mush-mouth Joe Lieberman speaks at a grade 13.47 level? How can you tell?

MissTaken May 21, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Because he mumbles like all college freshmen high on the marijuana cigarettes?

Mumbly_Libel May 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Mumbly Libel!

Wile E. Quixote May 21, 2012 at 4:30 pm

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.

actor212 May 21, 2012 at 4:33 pm

"We no unnerstand. Him must be smart!"

deanbooth May 21, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Newt Gingrich is a 3rd grader's idea of what an 8th grader sounds like.

johnnyzhivago May 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Even if they were talking at a fourth grade level, they would still be talking way over the heads of most of their constituents.

Come here a minute May 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm

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

smokefilledroommate May 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm

"I'm a furniture!"

–Ralph Wiggum

prommie May 21, 2012 at 4:33 pm

"You choo-choo-choose me"

smokefilledroommate May 21, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Hi Lisa! Hi Super Nintendo Chalmers!

prommie May 21, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Gramma's hair looked like that when she went to sleep in her forever-box.

Butch_Wagstaff May 21, 2012 at 5:28 pm

When I grow up, I'm going to Bovine University!

randcoolcatdaddy May 21, 2012 at 4:25 pm

"Brawndo. Not water, like from the toilet."

elviouslyqueer May 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm

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

Oh, wait.

smokefilledroommate May 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm

I think this is actually good news for John McCain.

ManchuCandidate May 21, 2012 at 4:28 pm

I reds gud, uses leturs and spals grate and signs mah nam wit on X.

I um a GOPer COngressional Guy.

Mumbletypeg May 21, 2012 at 4:29 pm

"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.'

elviouslyqueer May 21, 2012 at 4:29 pm

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.

prommie May 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Just as we suspected, Rand Paul IS retarded!

Eve8Apples May 21, 2012 at 4:35 pm

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.

BaldarTFlagass May 21, 2012 at 4:37 pm

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.

shortsandpants May 21, 2012 at 4:46 pm

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

fuflans May 21, 2012 at 4:59 pm

can we say the 'r' word yet?

glamourdammerung May 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm

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.

Fukui-sanRadioBarb May 21, 2012 at 6:07 pm

But did you get accused of having a fake voice?

Butch_Wagstaff May 21, 2012 at 7:22 pm

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.

glamourdammerung May 21, 2012 at 7:30 pm

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

Butch_Wagstaff May 21, 2012 at 7:43 pm

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.

CivicHoliday May 21, 2012 at 6:27 pm

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.

ttommyunger May 21, 2012 at 8:23 pm

Guess who voted these people into office? (whimper)

MissTaken May 21, 2012 at 9:49 pm

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

Negropolis May 22, 2012 at 3:14 am

Mississippi will not stand for not being atop the list!

glamourdammerung May 21, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Yes.

Butch_Wagstaff May 21, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Sorta like the birds outside my bedroom window, huh?

flamingpdog May 21, 2012 at 9:43 pm

Sorta like my bladder.

Chichikovovich May 21, 2012 at 9:44 pm

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

flamingpdog May 21, 2012 at 9:47 pm

I wish I could upfist you more than once for that one.

smokefilledroommate May 21, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Damn, I think that's around when I go to bed.

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