Grassley: “Appreciate” The Wealthy Over Those Who Live “Day To Day”

I try not to yell at the radio. I don’t like to scare passengers in my car or passing drivers. I try to stay calm.

But I wasn’t just shouting when I heard Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley’s interview with National Public Radio host Robert Siegel on “All Things Considered” Thursday evening. I went clear through to stomping in anger.

The topic, of course, was the giveaway to the wealthy that was careening through the Senate like a runaway garbage truck. Throughout the five-minute interview, Grassley either lied or deflected questions with non-sequiturs. What really sent my blood pressure up, however, was when he denigrated people who have difficulty saving in today’s economy as a justification for doubling the amount the wealthy can pass on to heirs tax free.

Siegel noted that estate tax affects only a tiny percentage of the population, asking, “Why is it so important to raise the ceiling on estate taxes when already a couple can pass on an estate of up to $11 million dollars tax free?”

Grassley’s response was that we must show all those moguls and corporate titans how much we appreciate them – to show how great it is that they spent all their lives pinching pennies and putting off buying that yacht or jet so they could build their estates.

“It seems to me there ought to be some incentive and reward for those who work and save and invest in America as opposed to those who just live from day to day,” Grassley said, effectively maligning every hourly wage earner who has to stretch a paycheck.

He went on to cite two hypothetical taxpayers (or two couples; it’s not clear), each making $100,000 a year.

“One them, they spend it, have it all spent at the end of the year, and the others have saved a fourth of it and invest it and create jobs and leave something for the future. The first person leaves nothing for the future,” Grassley said.

Let’s take a break here to note a couple things. First, putting money in the bank or buying stock, in and of itself, does little if anything to “create jobs.” Unless it’s an initial offering, buying stock doesn’t put money in a company’s pocket to invest in infrastructure or jobs. It puts money in the pocket of the person who sold the stock. The purchaser is buying a share of future company earnings. Using savings to start a new company may create jobs, and God bless those who do that.

Second, those companies would fail without the people who spend all or nearly all of their $100,000 – and depending on where someone lives, the size of their family, their health and other factors, $100,000 could be barely enough to survive. Businesses make money when people have money to spend. Cutting taxes on the wealthy yields little benefit this way because the wealthy already can afford all they want. Giving aid (food stamps and welfare payments) to the poor stimulates the economy more effectively because it’s immediately spent, going right back into businesses and factories. These are the people Grassley thinks aren’t doing enough to save.

Back to Grassley: Siegel then pointed out that “very, very few couples that make a combined income of $100,000 are going to have estates of $20 million” – the estate tax ceiling proposed in the Senate bill.

Grassley’s answer: Don’t confuse me with actual facts.

“In no way is my statement meant to dispute the statistics you gave me,” he said. “I’m giving you a philosophical reason for recognizing savings versus those who want to live high on the hog and not save anything or invest.”

This is nonsense. The current estate tax has no effect on most people who save for retirement or invest in stocks or small businesses. In fact, the law already treats most dividend and capital gains income more favorably than the money people earn by the sweat of their labor, taxing it at a maximum 20 percent rate compared to a maximum 39.6 percent rate for ordinary income, like wages.

And the estate tax is hardly devastating to those few heirs who have to pay it. They’ll still walk away with at least the $5.49 million an individual or $10.98 million a couple can bequeath. They’ll have to pay a 40 percent tax on any money over and above that amount, so if the estate is $6.49 million, they’ll still clear an additional $600,000 on top of the $5.49 million. I think those heirs will squeak by somehow. I’m not shedding any tears for them.

Grassley formerly defended reducing or eliminating the estate tax by saying family farmers had to sell out to pay it. But he could never find an ordinary family that actually lost its farm that way. So I guess this is his new approach: that we must “appreciate” the fat cats who skipped a second dish of ice cream to save and invest while we miserable creatures at the lower end of the scale foolishly spent our money on things like housing, clothes, college educations and health insurance.

Republicans have long said Democrats want to turn the United States into Europe, with a big social state and high taxes (never mind that people in those countries tend to enjoy better income equality and are happier than most Americans.) But Republicans really are the ones determined to make America into Europe, taking us back to the feudal era when serfs served a permanent class of rich, landed gentry.


by Tom O’Donnell
Posted 12/4/17

10 Comments on "Grassley: “Appreciate” The Wealthy Over Those Who Live “Day To Day”"

  • When you elect the self entitled likes of Chuck Grassley, this is what you get. A man so out of touch and greedy that he can say the most ridiculous things and stand by them. Seriously Iowa, you can’t do better?

  • He is a poodle for campaign donations from Koch/Mercer and for Mitch McC. I make calls to express my opinions on how I would like him to serve me, his constituents, get an answering machine, then a patronizing email about how wrong I am and how right he is to continue serving the wealth class. They are lying and aggravating messages. Nice expensive suit, Chuck! Obviously you don’t spend your money on women, booze, and movies, but on expensive suits to better serve your out-of-state donors, who threatened to “close their wallets” if the garbage bin tax cuts for the wealthy didn’t pass. Too bad the hand-written changes in the margins were unreadable. who knows what they actually voted on, obviously not the Republicans!

    As for calling Joni, her phones typically ring until they hang up atuomatically. The Kochs are proud of her.

  • I don’t mind the wealthy being, you know, wealthy. To get to be wealthy requires a lot of hard work. They earned their initial wealth (well, except for, maybe those who inherited theirs, and din;t bother working to grow what the received). They created; whether it was the latest widget, they built. I do not denigrate them for that; I say, “Good for you!”. I DO, however, mind atttides like Grassley’s, implying that those of us NOT of the ruling, err, wealthy class are somehow stupid, lazy, or just plain wastrels. And I REALLY dislike TAKING from the not-so rich to put more money (that they haven’t earned!) into their already bursting coffers. Grassley’s weekly “newsletter” touts how much “working Iowans” are going to save with the tax scam (hint, we are not, especially in a couple years), and how giving all these breaks to the ultra-rich will somehow trickle down to benefitt all of us (hint – trickle-down has been debunked so many times that I can’t believe that even hard-line “fiscal conservatives” can still spew that tripe). Blatant lies, but said as if butter wouldn’t mewlt in his mouth – and tehn he goes to attack those who actually voted for him? Golly; what a guy! (yeah – that was fully-intended snark)

    • It is physically impossible for anyone living in a human body to self-earn heaps of wealth. Humans eat and sleep, or die – all humans are limited by nature in just how long and hard they can work, or in other words in just how much they can contribute to the pool of wealth. If someone works twice as long as the average person does over a lifetime, justice, logic, and reason would give them twice the amount of money – not a hundred or a million or a trillion times the amount. Also, when money earns interest it ought to be obvious that it wasn’t work, aka the sacrifice of a person’s time and energies, that got the reward. Also, the practice of private inheritance means free-gratis money to people who did no work at all to earn the fortune. People pay lip service to the idea of rewarding work with wealth, but then they go on to endorse the legal thieving, the myriad ways money automatically and ceaselessly drifts from rightful earner-owners to freebie getters. If humans want a chance to have a future they must examine irrational but longheld ideas and begin to respread world wealth as evenly as world work is spread – because legal theft is still theft, and every theft comes with an angry person attached, and injustice drives violence, and everyone who isn’t you is your environment. The rich don’t create jobs, Only demand creates jobs – and that demand belongs to the people. Humans have been using division of labor as an excuse to give overpay to a fraction few and underpay to everybody else and it cannot go on – it is unsustainable as it is unjust. Lastly, only work deserves wealth because only work creates wealth – and anybody who doesn’t yet know that should right now take a dollar bill out of their wallet

      and command it to fix you a sandwich.

  • None of the behavior’s or attitudes of the Republican Party here in Iowa and elsewhere should come as any surprise to anyone. If they continue to run the board in upcoming elections–now that would be a surprise. A really pathetic one.

  • Grassley has lost his moral compass and has become a member of the GOP herd who are only concerned about lining their pockets with more money and benefits.

  • There was a time when America was the meritocracy that those like Grassley like to make us believe it still is. The main goal of conservatism since the GOP sold its soul to the zombie Confederacy in the 60’s is to end any hope of realizing the American dream unless you inherited it. To do this, they will neuter any ability the federal government has to regulate or tax business and wealth, thinking to shrink it to a size that can be drowned in a bathtub. They will do this from within by making Americans believe their government is their enemy, always to be limited and chained to the whim of the investment class, positing it as the “creators” of wealth, not the beneficiaries that they are.

    The truth is that the federal government is the only source of currency to the private sector that doesn’t require it to leverage its own bank debt at interest. Deficit spending is not only good, but is “required” in a modern economy. Deficits must be, at least, large enough to compensate for wealth accumulation and trade deficits or the available money supply in circulation shrinks. America uses a fiat currency that can only be created by Congress when it spends to provision government and pays for programs. It can never run out of the currency it creates and can never fail to pay any obligation denominated in the currency it creates at will.

    The private sector exchanges goods and services to the government for the currency, and incurs no debt in doing so. A balanced budget effectively claws back all currency paid to the private sector for this exchange. How long would we work for employers that billed us for all of our earnings and benefits and hired a very nasty collection agency to assure we paid? Federal spending minus taxes collected equals the deficit. The accumulation of deficits since our nation’s founding equals the national debt. Do the math. The “debt” that we are so afraid of and get beat over the head with by politicians on both sides is nothing but a record of currency in the economy that hasn’t yet been canceled by taxation. We don’t “owe” $20 Trillion. We “OWN” $20 Trillion, albeit horribly distributed.

  • So the working class lacks wisdom, waisting paychecks on booze and women? Maybe Senator Grassley should pay attention to recent press releases. How do affluent White male elitists spend their money? You guessed it: women and booze, plus paying their attorneys to settle sexual abuse scandals. As a female, I’ll choose an honest, faithful, working man any day.

  • So the working class lacks wisdom, wasting paychecks on booze and women? Maybe Senator Grassley should pay attention to recent press releases. How do White male elitists spend their money? You guessed it: women and booze, plus paying attorneys to handle sexual abuse scandals. As a female, I’ll choose an honest, faithful working man any day.

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