POLITICS

Is Congress dumbing down debate?

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Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio

House members are dumbing down their speeches, or they are just getting dumber themselves.

That's a conclusion suggested in a new analysis by the Sunlight Foundation, which used an interesting website called Capitolwords.org to analyze the most popular words lawmakers utter on the Senate and House floor every day.

According to Sunlight, Congress speaks nearly a grade level lower than lawmakers did in 2005.

Sunlight concluded that Congress speaks at the level of a mid-year high school sophomore. Back in 2005, lawmakers were speechifying like high school juniors.

The organization used a method that ties longer sentences and longer words with higher grade levels.

The analysis ranked individual lawmakers from those who speak on the highest grade level to the lowest. The bottom five were all Republican, including Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who has been speaking at an 8th grade level.



Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., ranked number one, according to Sunlight. He speaks at the same level as a college graduate.

The report concludes that moderate lawmakers speak at a higher level than those to the far left or right.

The report notes that the two senators in the bottom 20 are Paul and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who are "both Tea Party supported freshmen."

But Republicans outnumber Democrats among the members who speak at the highest grade levels, the report concludes.

The report also calculates that the nation's most historical documents are far, far more sophisticated than any recent floor speech.

The U.S. Constitution, for instance, written at a 17.8 grade level, the Federalist Papers at a 17.1 grade level, and the Declaration of Independence at a 15.1 grade level.

But President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address comes at an 11.2 grade level and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is at a 9.4 grade level.

"Most major newspapers are written at between an 11th and 14th grade level," the report concludes.

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