Grassley's 'Booze' Comment on Estate Tax Draws Ire

He complains of people who spend their money on alcohol, women, and movies
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 4, 2017 8:21 AM CST
Grassley's 'Booze' Comment on Estate Tax Draws Ire
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.   (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley is taking flak over comments he made about why the GOP aims to scrap or least mitigate the estate tax. In speaking to the Des Moines Register, Grassley said the tax often derided by Republicans as the "death tax" is unfair because it taxes earnings twice, first when people earn the money and again when they die and try to pass it on to their heirs. Then came the more controversial part: "I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing, as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies." As NPR notes, that triggered a flurry of online criticism from those who viewed Grassley's remarks as elitist. This tweet is typical of the reaction: "I'm sure those folks would love to invest, but they're a bit preoccupied just trying to make ends meet."

The Washington Post notes that it also caught the attention of former Hillary Clinton spokesman Jesse Ferguson, who tweeted, "[I]f we gave that money in middle class tax cuts, they’d just waste it on hookers and blow. right?” But it wasn't just Democrats taking issue. At the conservative Hot Air site, Ed Morrissey says the comment "is everything right and wrong with the current Republican tax-reform effort in a nutshell." Grassley's first criticism of the "double dip" problem with the estate tax is spot-on correct, he writes. "In the very next breath, however, Grassley commits the same sin that has plagued the tax system for decades, which is Congress’ desire to commit social engineering through it." The House tax plan would eliminate the tax entirely in 2024, while the Senate version would double exemptions to $11 million for individuals and $22 million for couples. (More Ryan Grassley stories.)

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