Last night, I was the guest on my colleague Susie Moore’s podcast, Moore to the Point. It will be posted here later in the week, be sure to check it out. The subject was the myth of competent elites. Specifically, we were drilling down into why so many people who seem so smart on paper can make such boneheaded decisions as those that come out of our elites. The corollary to that being, why should we bother listening to them?
So imagine my surprise when LegiStorm ran a story today headlined Freshman members are hiring less-educated staffs.
The freshman class has some of the worst-educated offices on the Hill, according to LegiStorm data.
Freshman Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), Michelle Fischbach (R-Minn.) and Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.) each have one of the 10 least-educated staffs in Congress.
Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), whose staff is heavy on master’s degrees, is the only freshman to crack the top 10 and is second only to Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.). In the 116th Congress, half of the top 10 list belonged to the freshman class.
On average, Democratic lawmakers surround themselves with staff with more formal education, while Republicans tend to instead emphasize military service and other career experiences and training.
LegiStorm gives a score to each office based on educational level attained and quality of the school attended. For educational level, PhDs count more than master’s degrees, which in turn count more than bachelor’s degrees, for example. For school quality, LegiStorm used the U.S. News and World Report rankings, with various bonus points going to students who attended a top 100, top 50 or top 10 school.
If you are interested in this anal-ysis, check out the listing.
What the list does is conflate academic credentials and the college attended with “educated.” Those two things are not similar and not even vaguely related. If you’re paying a premium for a Ph.D. to work on your staff, you’re doing it all wrong. If you’ve ever worked in an organization that was not medical or bench-science related and which hired lots of Ph.D.s to appease the ego of HR staff who are in danger of autoerotic asphyxia at the thought of hiring a Ph.D., particularly one of the Ivy League variety, then you know what I’m talking about. Awarding “points” for a staffer attending a “Top 10” school is also suspect. Put another way, David Hogg is going to graduate from a Top 10 school. Does that thought fill you with confidence? Does loading up Cori Bush’s staff with Ph.D.s really make any difference?
What the LegiStorm list does is turn class bias into a metric by which Congressional staff, and by extension, Representatives and Senators, are evaluated. It says that if you went to a big state university and an unranked law school or graduate school that you aren’t terribly well educated and, presumably, won’t be very good at the job. If you went into the military and got your master’s degree while on active duty through an extension program, you are less educated than some privileged kid whose parents paid his way through an Ivy League grad school even if you commanded troops in combat or served on a battle staff. It says that if you never worked a day in your life but won the birth Lotto that you are a more capable person and one more desirable to govern the proles than someone who may have experience in business, engineering, or any number of other pursuits AND who isn’t a spoiled brat.
When you look at the 1-535 (actually, there are 533 on the list) ordering, what you see is that Democrat staff is composed mostly of graduates of elite universities. It is a safe bet that a good number of them are lawyers. Republican staff? Not so much. That is a pretty good proxy for the people Democrats believe should be running things. If you’ve seen any evidence that having a particular piece of paper makes you smart, educated, or competent, you may be the only person in the world to have experienced that.