Republican Senator Chuck Grassley (Iowa) went on record this week with the Des Moines Register last week to defend eliminating the estate tax for individuals or businesses worth more than $5.5 million dollars. That exemption rises to $11 million for couples.
But in an article titled “The Wealthy Invest: Others Spend Money on Women and Booze” by Bloomberg News Grassley managed to insult nearly every single working American living today. His actual quote was “I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people who are investing as opposed to those who are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on women or booze or movies.”
By that reasoning Grassley is saying that if you don’t happen to have at least $5.5 million dollars and change lying around it is your fault. You’ve frittered away your money on booze. Or women. Or movies. Senator Grassley, you need to start living in the real world, not the Washington, D.C. bubble with your fellow millionaire members of Congress.
Many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. They are not investing because they are spending their money on booze and women. They are not investing because they are trying to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Others more fortunate are socking away as much as they can in their 401K accounts, but it’s doubtful that many of those reach your threshold to qualify as “people who are investing.”
Grassley tried to walk back this insult by saying “My point about the estate tax, which was taken out of context, is that the government shouldn’t seize the fruits of someone’s lifetime of labor after they die. The question is one of basic fairness, and working to create a tax code that doesn’t penalize frugality, saving, and investment.”
Senator Grassley, how about not having the government seizing the fruits of someone’s labor while they’re still alive? Here’s a novel idea. Why not support a tax bill that reduces the taxes on the lower and middle classes so that they might actually have some money left over at the end of the month to invest? Yes, the Republicans claim their plan does reduce these taxes, but the legislation the Senate passed in the dark of the night is such a mish-mash of goodies for the wealthy such as exemptions for people who own private jets or golf courses, that it is hard to see where the hard working people get any benefits at all from your plan. However, since nobody really knows what is in the bill, it’s pretty difficult to make an argument that it doesn’t raise taxes on the middle class while benefiting the top 1%.
Grassley also employed an age-old Republican argument for eliminating the estate tax by saying it would provide much-needed relief for family farmers and small business owners. However, Bloomberg reports that The Tax Policy Center “has estimated that only about 80 small business and small farm estates na tionwide will face any estate tax in 2017.” That 80, eight zero, entities facing an estate tax this year.
Senator Grassley, you owe the American people an APOLOGY, not some half-hearted explanation. You also owe the American people a tax code that distributes the burden equably across all incomes. But I seriously doubt we will get either one of those things from you.