Spotlight Exclusives

Words Count and So Do Word Counts

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The number of times the word “poverty” gets used in Congress is at your fingertips thanks to Capitol Words a new political transparency tool created by the Sunlight Foundation. Not only does Capitol Words total the use of words by Members of Congress, it also ranks the Members who use those words the most.   For example: 

Top 10 Lawmakers Using the Word “poor”

  1. 98 Richard Durbin (D-IL
  2. 95 Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX-18) 
  3. 72 Tom Harkin (D-IA) 
  4. 69 Edward Kennedy (D-MA) 
  5. 64 Thomas Coburn (R-OK) 
  6. 63 Orrin Hatch (R-UT) 
  7. 56 Lamar Alexander (R-TN) 
  8. 53 Charles Rangel (D-NY-15) 
  9. 50 Bernard Sanders (I-VT) 
  10. 48Charles Grassley (R-IA) 


Top 10 Lawmakers Using The Word “wealthy”

  1. 45 Charles Grassley (R-IA) 
  2. 44Bernard Sanders (I-VT) 
  3. 38 Judd Gregg (R-NH) 
  4. 31 Richard Durbin (D-IL) 
  5. 24 Kent Conrad (D-ND) 
  6. 19 Peter DeFazio (D-OR-4) 
  7. 18 Jon Kyl (R-AZ) 
  8. 16 James Bunning (R-KY) 
  9. 15 Harry Reid (D-NV) 
  10. 14 Max Baucus (D-MT) 

In addition to tallying words, this service includes a timeline of when the words were used and provides a state by state breakdown of congressional members۪ word usage.

No doubt, dissertations will soon start rolling out from colleges across the nation with titles like “How the Congressional Use of the Terms Poor and Wealthy Have Varied Over Time and Implications for the Nation?”  In the meantime, here۪s the OOTS instant analysis:

Lawmakers are less comfortable with the term “wealthy” than they are with the word “poor”:  

  • “Wealthy” was never used more than 45 times by one of the top ten users of that term, yet “poor” was always used more than 45 times by each one of its top ten.  
  • “Wealthy” was used around one-third as often as “poverty” when all of the utterances of the top users are considered (224 “wealthy” v. 668 “poor).  

While lawmakers show less comfort with the term “wealthy,” those who use the word  come in all political stripes:

  • Among the top ten “wealthy” users in Congress, party assumptions go out the window. Democrats have the lead, albeit slight, with 5 lawmakers compared to 4 Republicans and 1 Independent.  
  • Each party has one member who appears in the “top ten” for “wealthy” and for “poor”. Democratic Senator Durbin, Republican Senator Grassley, and Independent Bernie Sanders rank in the top ten for both “wealthy” and “poor” utterances.

The peak use of the terms “wealthy” and “poor” are on dramatically different parts of the timeline:

  • Between 2001 and 2008, the term “wealthy” peaked in the first quarter of 2001.  By contrast, the term “poor” peaked in the last quarter of 2007.

OOTS invites Spotlight readers to submit their own, hopefully tongue-in-cheek analysis!!!

Posted by Jodie


Here at “Out of the Spotlight” we love rumors and gossip (at least of the non-malicious type), so if you hear names that you think we should pay attention to, drop us a line at either or۪ll post new names as we get em! Of course, OOTS dishes on much more than who might be on the dream team. Check out “Out of the Spotlight” for our take on behind-the-scenes policy sparring, the twists and turns of political plans, and more. Contributions welcome! 

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