Sen. Grassley, our overtaxed sanity is a bigger problem than overtaxed estates

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U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley’s recent remarks on the estate tax are getting lots of attention. Just Google ‘booze.”

“I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing,” Grassley, R-Iowa, said, according to The Des Moines Register, “as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.” The story featuring his quotes appeared over the weekend, and drew plenty of you-know-what from his critics.

For people inheriting multimillion estates, a tidy tax break. For us bleacher bums, a stern lecture from the luxury box of American politics. For women, yet another moment when you can, in the phrasing of a famous Grassley tweet, assume man clueless.

This also strikes me as cruel, and not because the senator neatly divided us up into a prudent, industrious investor class, worthy of reward, and a drunken rabble blowing its dough on hedonistic whim, worthy of senatorial scorn. It’s cruel because a leader of the Republican Party, which gleefully served us the spirit-breaking, mendacity-smothered presidency of Donald Trump, now is deriding even our meager means of momentary escape. Seriously?

Imagine these many months without booze, entertainment and, if you’ll allow me to make a substitution on the senator’s list, free and fully consensual canoodling. The extra scratch these fleeting comforts might costs us is what I call a sanity tax. And it may very well be we’re now paying the highest sanity tax in American history. Higher than the estate tax.

Grassley and his Senate colleagues are in a unique position to cut the sanity tax. But that would require standing up to Trumpian insanity. Not likely, sports fans. In fact, Grassley would rather use his Judiciary Committee to fill the federal bench with young disciples of Don.

See? Now you’re going to need another bottle. And, somewhere, Bruce Braley is raising a tall glass of I-told-you-so.

On Monday Grassley sought to clarify, insisting he’d been “taken out of context.” He then basically repeated his flawed core argument, sans the handy list of questionable purchases keeping us from becoming millionaires.

Truth is, the vast majority of Iowans, including folks who never buy a bottle, a movie ticket or a weekend at Mar-a-Lago, will not pass on an estate large enough — $5.4 million for individuals, $11 million for couples — to be subject to the estate tax. This is a top-shelf, single-malt tax cut for folks inheriting serious wealth. Federal debt covers the tab.

And really, the most important investments in this equation were made by very wealthy GOP campaign donors. These are folks who include “senators” on their shopping lists.

The 2014 U.S. Senate race in Iowa cost more than $60 million, speaking of throwing away pennies. The winner promised to “make ‘em squeal,” and this tax bill no doubt is eliciting squeals of delight from those donors.

Amid trying times like these, I’ll turn to my Lutheran heritage for guidance.

“Who loves not woman, wine, and song, remains a fool his whole life long,” said the original Lutheran, Martin Luther, according to many sources. Sure, there’s also precious little evidence he ever actually said it. But why doubt? Have a little faith. And some wine, while we suffer fools.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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