A Quiz for Lawmakers

Jeff Stein tells us that the rising Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Silvestre Reyes, doesn’t know whether Al Qaeda and Hezbollah are predominantly made up of Shiite or Sunni Muslims. Well, the BCIS has decided to revamp the test required of applicants for citizenship. So I think we, the blogosphere, should put together our own new test–fifty questions a legislator should be able to answer correctly before he or she can vote on laws relating to those subjects. I’ve made a start below. Once we get a bunch I plan to put this into a document and send it to Pelosi and Reid. Hell–at the very least, maybe they can get their legislators to cram for the quiz so they don’t sound quite so embarrassing in interviews.

1. The terrorist group Al Qaeda is overwhelmingly made up of what kind of Muslims?

a. Shiite

b. Sunni

c. Kurds

d. Nation of Islam

2. The known nuclear proliferator, AQ Khan, comes from which country?

a. North Korea
b. Iran
c. Pakistan
d. Libya
e. Iraq

3. Which of the following countries is known to have nuclear weapons?

a. Israel
b. Iraq
c. Iran
d. Libya

4. Which of the following leaders was elected in an election deemed to be fair by outside observers?

a. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
b. King Abdullah of Jordan
c. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela
d. Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan

5. Which option correctly shows the US share of world population and its share of world oil use?

a. 5% of the world population, 25% of world oil use
b. 16% of the world population, 16% of world oil use
c. 25% of the world population, 25% of world oil use
d. 3% of the world population, 6% of world oil use

6. How much of Mexico’s GDP in 2005 came from remittances, money sent back to Mexico from migrant workers in other countries (primarily the United States)?

a. $21.8 million
b. $879.6 million
c. $1.7 billion
d. $21.8 billion

7. How many new jobs have been created by NAFTA?

a. 1,000,000
b. none — the US has effectively LOST 1,000,000 jobs due to NAFTA
c. none — the US has not lost or gained any jobs due to NAFTA
d. 56

8. What is the most common cause of personal bankruptcy?

a. Gambling debt
b. Medical expenses
c. Laziness
d. Unnecessary consumer expenditures

9. Which of the following is not a likely result of global warming?

a. Tsunamis in Asian countries
b. Heat waves killing thousands of people
c. Rising sea levels
d. Diminished agricultural productivity

10. How much has the average cost of a college education risen in the last five years?

a. 3%
b. 15%
c. 40%
d. 120%

11. Which state has the lowest divorce rate?

a. Georgia
b. Massachusetts
c. Missouri
d. Utah

12. Which country has the largest total number of people in prison?

a. China
b. India
c. Russia
d. United States

13. What is the poverty threshold for a family of four (with two children under 18) per the Census Bureau (2005)?

a. $19,806
b.  $21,424
c.  $24,498
d.  $25,255

14. Which country had no citizens among the nineteen 9-11 hijackers?

a. Egypt
b. Iraq
c. Saudi Arabia
d. Lebanon

15. Which of the following did the September 14, 2001, Authorization for the Use of Force resolution specifically provide for?

a. Domestic surveillance of telephone conversations
b. Extraordinary rendition of suspected terrorists
c. Suspension of the writ of habeas corpus
d. None of the above

16. How much has the S&P 500 index gone up since President Bush took office?

a. It has actually fallen
b. 2.5 percent
c. 25 percent
d. 125 percent

17. 84% of the Katrina-related destructive flooding of New Orleans was the result of:

a. Tropical storm
b. Category 1 hurricane storm surge
c. Eyewall of category 5 hurricane
d. Design failure of the Army Corps of Engineers levees

18. Between 1960 and 2004, Social Security helped cut the poverty rate among seniors by:

a. More than one half, from 25 percent to 10 percent
b. More than two-thirds, from 35 percent to 10 percent
c.More than one quarter, from 40 percent to 28 percent.
d. More than a tenth, from 50 percent to 43 percent.

19. How many eligible nonunion workers say they would join a union if they could?

a. 23 million/30 percent
b. 17 million/20 percent
c. 38 million / 39 percent
d. 57 million/59 percent

20. What percentage of shipping containers coming into US ports are physically opened and searched?

a. none
b. 2%
c. 10%
d. 22%

Provide your corrections and additions below.

Updated per corrections in this DKos thread.

Updated with more questions, 12/10 7:37 PM.

Updated played with question 14 so no one gives me the “Zarqawi in Kurdistan answer.”

Updated with still more questions 12/11 1:35–still working on the wording for the Katrina question.

Updated remittances question per Cujo’s correction.

Update by popular demand, answers (I will link to sources, hopefully by the end of Monday).

1 b — 2 c — 3 a — 4 c — 5 a — 6 d — 7 b — 8 b — 9 a — 10 c — 11 b — 12 d — 13 a — 14 b — 15 d — 16 b — 17 d — 18 b — 19 d — 20 b

36 replies
  1. Anonymous says:

    Some other subjects that really should be on here:

    Number of people without health care
    Correlation of number of abortions to availability of health care and educational opportunities
    Ratio of executive salaries to workers’ salaries
    Indebtedness of the average American
    Our own national debt, compared to historical periods
    US health outcomes as compared to European health outcomes

  2. njr says:

    readiness levels of military
    us military expenditure compared to other nations
    recent increase budget Dept Veteran’s Affairs

  3. Anonymous says:


    I like them. Can we make a question out of them? I’d love to have one on rates of PTSD or untreated medical care, especially.

  4. Mimikatz says:

    Are these supposed to be questions that anyone haing pretensions to speak out about public policy should know off the top of their head (like al Qaeda: Sunni or Shia? Italy in WWII: fascist or communist?) or more complicated things that one would have to look up (and should), like the number of people not covered by some sort of health care plan?

    In the former category, how about

    1. Which branch of government did the Funders think was primary, and so they mentioned it first?

    2. Why were the Bill of Rights added as the first amendments to the US Constitution?

    3. How much have the incomes of the top 1% gone up over the past 5 years?

    4. The bottom 50%?

    5. Taking inflation into account, how much have wages risen since the early 1970’s?

    6. In the 1950’s the average CEO made 40 times as much as the average worker. What is the ratio now?

    7. True of false: Prior to the arrival of the first European settlers, what is now the US was extensively populated by people who had arrived many centuries earlier.

    8. True or false: Native peoples had large centers of commerce and traded extensively with one another.

    9. What is the largest non-white group in the US? What share of the US population is currently African-American? Latino? Asian?

    10. What is the approximate level of the cumulative US National debt?

    On global warming: some areas (Canada) will experience increased agricultural production while others (US Plains states) will see it decrease.

    And I’d say who is AQ Khan, what is he most notorious for and what coutry does he come from?

  5. Anonymous says:

    I guess my goal is to get legislators to learn the basic facts about all the crappy legislation they’ve voted for in the last 10 years. Among those pieces of legislation would be:

    Dumping Kyoto
    Plan D
    NCLB without the funding to implement it
    Authorization of the war in Iraq
    Potential authorization of aggression against Iran
    Cuts in funding for college loan programs
    Bankruptcy bill

    So it’s not so much historical. It’s just the hope that these guys know the basic facts about the policies they’re voting for.

  6. pdaly says:

    Great questionnaire.

    I’d like to see questions plumbing Congress’ understanding of their expected role in government:

    Which is the ideal to which Congress should continually aspire in its daily work?

    a. I serve at the pleasure of the President
    b. I serve to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States
    c. I serve to do the bidding of my election backers
    d. I serve to protect the interests of K Street

    Since Congress is supposed to oversee the government, this question could be reworded to inquire about expectations of people in other government branches. For instance, â€Senior Administration Official (SAO)â€:

    Which is the ideal to which a SAO should continually aspire in his/her daily work?

    a. I serve at the pleasure of the President
    b. I serve to protect and defend the Constitution of the US
    c. I serve to do the bidding of my President’s election backers
    d. I serve the interests of K Street

    Which of the following are considered bribes?

    a. Taking a phone call from a destitute constituent begging for food, clothing, housing or basic health care

    b. Taking free golf trips from an individual or entity in exchange for legislation or governement projects favorable to that individual or entity’s interests.

    c. Taking a prostitute into one’s embrace provided gratis by an individual or entity in exchange for legislation or governement projects favorable to that individual or entity’s interest.

    d. None of the above

    Choose the most appropriate description of Israel. Israel is…

    a. one of the states in the USA
    b. part of the US Territories
    c. totally blameless for anything happening in the Middle East
    d. a foreign power with interests at times at odds with US interests

  7. al-Fubar says:

    Mimikatz – to amply your #1 above, how about just asking them to define the word â€republic?â€

    – Rick

  8. pdaly says:

    Oops. That question should be reworded:

    Which of the following is NOT considered a bribe?

    a. Taking a phone call from a destitute constituent begging for food, clothing, housing or basic health care

    b. Taking free golf trips from an individual or entity in exchange for legislation or governement projects favorable to that individual or entity’s interests.

    c. Taking a prostitute into one’s embrace provided gratis by an individual or entity in exchange for legislation or governement projects favorable to that individual or entity’s interest.

    d. None of the above

  9. Anonymous says:

    Try these:

    The percentage of the world population of Muslims that are Shia is:

    1. 10 percent.
    2. 15 percent.
    3. 25 percent.
    4. 30 percent.

    The number of countries that control resources crucial to the United States that is run by Shia Muslims is:

    1. One.
    2. Five.
    3. Ten.

    The number of countries that control the oil supplies crucial to the operation of the United States economy that are controlled by Sunni Muslims are:

    1. All but one.
    2. All but three.

    The number of Sunni Muslims around the world who would consider the United States â€tilting†in favor of the Shiites of Iraq as evidence the United States has declared war on Muslims are:

    1. 1 billion
    2. 900 million
    3. 800 million.

    If the Sunni-run countries that control oil were to embargo the United States for â€tilting†in favor of the Shiites of Iraq, it would take how many weeks for the United States economy to grind to a halt:

    1. One week.
    2. One month.
    3. 90 days.

    The American official who is proposing that the United States â€tilt†in favor of the Shiites of Iraq is:

    1. The Vice President.
    2. The President.
    3. The Speaker of the House.

    Yes, these are simple trick questions that even a congresscritter can figure out – the answer is #1 in each case.

  10. Anonymous says:

    How about US literacy rate information.

    Perhaps a question about what percentage of the population has no health insurance or medical coverage of any kind.

    What two countries have not chosen to sign the Kyoto accords.

    What countries still find it lawful or moral to sentence underage children to the death penalty.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Here’s a couple:

    1. The right to join and form labor unions for collective bargaining is protected by U.S. law, and recognized by the civilized world and international law as a fundamental human right.
    a. True
    b. False

    2. Last year, _________ American workers were illegally fired by their employers for union activity.
    a. over 20,000
    b. 15,000
    c. 8,500
    d. 150
    e. None

    3. What percentage of American workers would prefer to either 1) be in a union or 2) have the same protections and benefits as a typical unionized workplace (job security, due process, etc.)?
    a. less than 10%
    b. 20-30%
    c. 40-50%%
    d. 80-90%

    Answers: a, a, and d

  12. Some American says:

    Is the question about who has the largest number of its population in prison correct? i thought it was that the us had the largest percentage of its population in prison.

  13. Nicholas says:

    How many of the states are vulnerable to destructive phenomenon such as hurricanes and tornadoes? Are those likely to become a) more powerful b) less powerful if global warming trends continue? What is the ratio of the damage done to New Orleans to what it would have cost to adequately shore up the levees?

  14. Douglas Watts says:

    Empty Wheel — excellent job. this should be circulated the world over. thank you.

    Douglas Watts.

  15. anonymous says:

    What’s the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?

    What percentage of our budget is spent on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and Defense, respectively? How will that change in the next 30 years?

    Which healthcare system, either public or private, is the best one in America? (measured in terms of both health outcomes and patient satisfaction?) Answer: the VA system. Swear to God.

  16. Les Lambert says:

    Here’s one that should have been part of the test before the vote to invade Iraq; it’s still very relevant:

    Following the 1979 Soviet take-over of Afghanistan, the Afghan insurgency (which lasted approximately until 1988), cost the Soviet army about 15,000 soldiers killed in action. Afghan casualties reportedly numbered 1,300,000. Who prevailed?

    (see â€The Soviet War in Afghanistan: History and Harbinger of Future War?†M. Y. Nawroz & L. W. Grau, 1995)

  17. Heyman Nationwide says:

    Al Qaeda was made up by a CIA informant. The Bush Administration was responsible for the 911 attacks. Furthermore, this assinine test for our corrupt politicians is moot. Almost all of them are sheeple for the Bilderbergs, Trilaterals and CFR’s. Get real. The only terrorists are the CIA, MI5 and Interpol.
    WE, the people of this great country? MUST take it back. Or be doomed to the assholes that are ruining this planet. And our childrens future.

  18. Zac says:

    The correct answer for NAFTA is b, right? That’s what I get out of http://www.policyalternatives&….._NAFTA.pdf , a Canadian report. The US government doesn’t seem to give us any information on jobs created, which usually means the answer is not in their favor.

    â€These effects of NAFTA have occurred for two reasons. First, growing trade deficits with Mexico and Canada have
    displaced production that supported roughly 660,000 (manufacturing only) and 1.0 million (total) U.S. jobs since the
    agreement took effect in 1994. Export growth since 1994 supported an additional 1 million U.S. jobs, while imports
    displaced domestic production that would support 2 million jobs.â€

  19. Anonymous says:

    Oh, and RE: Prison population. The website I linked to, while hardly balanced on the issues, says that the US also has more citizens in jail than any other country. As of 2001, the US had 700,000 more than Russia, and 1 million more than China. India, in 4th place, has slightly more than 200,000 in jail.

  20. Bryan says:

    These questions are great but I must admit I don’t know all the answers. How about posting the answers as well?

  21. Wretched Refuse says:

    The system of checks and balances DOES NOT mean:

    A) The Presidential branch oversees the Judicial branch by means of replacement of open seats

    B) The Legislative Branch oversees the Presidnetial Branch via power of the purse and writing laws and Constitutional Amendments

    c) The Judicial Branch oversees the Legislative branch by the power of declaring laws passed as un-consitutiional

    d) The Presidential branch oversees both the Legislative branch and the judicial branch by its Constitutional status as Unitary Executvie, thusly can render any law or Judicial decision as null and void

  22. Anonymous says:


    right on both counts. Even an AP article cited 2 million US prisoners, 1.something million Chinese prisoners.

    I’ve got sources for these, but I’m working my way back to government data, so hopefully then there won’t be a big to do.

  23. Terry Olson says:

    Great idea! I think that before a test this specific to their work, lawmakers should have to score in the 90th percentile or above on California’s 11th grade STAR test. They like No Child Left Behind, they should live with it. Maybe they’ll figure out why half the kids in Los Angeles are dropping out. Results are public. Lawmakers not passing should be put on probation and unable to vote until they pass. Half the test should be given in Spanish just so they get a real feel for the stupidity of it.

  24. J says:

    Nice Post. Here’s my 2 cents…we’ve always had a dubious arms sales record, but in this time of â€catapulting†â€democracy exportationâ€, I think the following is especially relevant:

    The US dominates the international arms market. Since 2001, what percentage of US Arms Sales have gone to non-democratic regimes? i.e. (How many of our guns, tanks and missiles are sold to dictators?)

    A) 10%
    B) 25%
    C) 50%
    D) 80%


  25. Cujo359 says:

    [This is my first post here, so hopefully I haven’t transgressed any unwritten laws ;)]

    That’s a good set of questions. The one on remittances seems a bit unfair. A quick Internet search shows many different estimates, although most for 2004 seem to be in the $16-20 billion range.

    Here’s a suggested question:

    Before each session of Congress, legislators swear an oath to:
    a. protect the American people
    b. preserve freedom for all Americans
    c. support and defend the Constitution
    d. defend the American free market economy

    Answer (c), of course. I’d be curious how many remember. Source:

    That brings to mind a second question, thanks to a recent â€War On Christmasâ€-like brouhaha amongst the right wing:

    The Constitution suggests that the oath of office be taken on:

    a. the Holy Bible
    b. the Koran
    c. the Talmud
    d. it says that no religious test shall be required of office seekers

    Answer (d) Source:

    (it’s in Article VI), so you have to scroll down a little)

  26. Anonymous says:

    Welcome Cujo.

    I’ll work on sourcing that, thanks. It came from, IIRC, a UN paper or something similarly â€official.â€

  27. Ken Lovisa says:

    Essay Question:

    What is the difference between the US Budget Deficit and the US National Debt? What is the relationship between them?

  28. name says:

    Who founded, financed and trained al-quaida?

    1) FBI
    2) CIA
    3) NSA


  29. Anonymous says:

    As for the Mexico remittances question, it would be helpful if you included Mexico’s 2005 GDP for comparison ($1.06 trillion GDP, PPP method).

    Although, that’s a good point:

    Which of the following is closest to the US GDP for 2005?
    a) $ 6 billion
    b) $ 12 billion
    c) $ 6 trillion
    d) $ 12 trillion

    Which of the following is closest to the current US national debt?
    a) $100 billion
    b) $1 trillion
    c) $10 trillion
    d) $100 trillion

    How much income must one household make to be considered in the top 5% of households by income in the US?
    a) $96,000
    b) $112,000
    c) $135,000
    d) $157,000

    Which of the following is closest to the median annual household income in the US?
    a) $30,000
    b) $45,000
    c) $60,000
    d) $75,000

    Which of the following is closest to the median annual household income of African-American households in the US?
    a) $30,000
    b) $45,000
    c) $60,000
    d) $75,000

    Then the short answer question:
    What’s the difference between mean and median? Why did I use â€median†in those last two questions?

    (Answers: dcdba)

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