Grassley says his ‘booze or women or movies’ comment was taken out of context

As Republicans continue to sell the details of their tax bill, some are reaching for more colorful language to liven up complex policies that tend to put the average voter to sleep.

Case in point: Over the weekend, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) hashed over the plan with his home state’s largest newspaper, the Des Moines Register. Turning to the party’s idea of doing away with the estate tax, Grassley framed the current law as a hindrance to responsible saving.

“I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing,” Grassley told the Register in a story published Saturday. “As opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

The estate tax, often described by Republicans as the “death tax,” is levied only on the very rich, passing on assets of more than $5.5 million for individuals and $11 million for married couples. The current tax on estates is 40 percent of an individual’s wealth at death.

Grassley, a Senate Finance Committee member responsible for writing the tax proposal, was immediately slammed by critics over the comments.

The suggestion — that anyone not socking away their savings in the bank or investments must be profligately throwing their money away — played directly into the critique that Republicans are disconnected from the majority of working Americans.

“Darn straight, Sen. Grassley,” former Hillary Clinton spokesman Jesse Ferguson wrote on Twitter. “If we gave that money in middle class tax cuts, they’d just waste it on hookers and blow. right?”

Said Holly O’Reilly, a national “March for Truth” organizer:

Dear @ChuckGrassley

You spelled “food and childcare” wrong.

Pull it together.

Sincerely, America

On Monday, Grassley said his point about the estate tax had been taken out of context and sought to expound on his thoughts.

“My point regarding the estate tax, which has been taken out of context, is that the government shouldn’t seize the fruits of someone’s lifetime of labor after they die,” he said in a statement. “The question is one of basic fairness, and working to create a tax code that doesn’t penalize frugality, saving and investment….

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