Senator Grassley says his quote on estate taxes was taken out of context

WASHINGTON — Some Iowans are upset about Senator Chuck Grassley’s recent comment about how a person who doesn’t save money may just be blowing it on “booze or women or movies.”

Three groups are holding protests today outside Grassley’s offices in Waterloo and Des Moines. Grassley, a Republican, says he was defending the GOP effort to scale back federal estate taxes as a way to help people who invest.

“The language that you said I’m being criticized for was just kind of an expression of somebody that spends all their money and doesn’t save it,” Grassley says. “It’s not in any way talking about people that live from paycheck to paycheck.”

In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Grassley said he supported efforts to reduce estate taxes as “the government shouldn’t seize the fruits of someone’s lifetime of labor after they die.” Grassley says the critics are taking his comments to the paper out of context.

“The story that was written in its total was very accurate, expressing how I feel about people having incentives to save,” Grassley says. “I think the people that are commenting think that I’m making bad comments about people that live from paycheck to paycheck.” In the original quote from the Register article, Grassley says: “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.”

Grassley says his comments were about two fictional people who are both making good money but who have different philosophies on saving and spending. “Somebody decides to spend from day to day all of his wages and doesn’t save anything and doesn’t have to worry about a death tax,” Grassley says. That’s the individual Grassley was referring to with the “booze or women or movies” quote, though in a conference call with Iowa reporters today, he said he also could have simply said, “buying new cars and going to movies and it would be the same thing.”

By comparison, he elaborates on the second individual’s spending habits. “The other person deprives themselves early in life to save and invest and create jobs, maybe wanting to pass on the family business or farm,” Grassley says, “and then death comes and you might be penalized for savings.” Grassley says the tax code should be more fair and not penalize people for frugality.

Members of the Iowa Citizen Action Network, the Main Street Alliance of Iowa and Americans for Democratic Action Iowa are hosting rallies today outside two of Grassley’s Iowa offices to protest his remarks.

A spokeswoman for I-CAN released a statement saying: “Not only is his comment sexist, and elitist, it shows just how far removed he has become from the hard working Iowans he is supposed to represent.”

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