In an interview with the Des Moines Register about the estate tax, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) very succinctly described the kind of person you’d need to be to support the opaque, barely-finished, absolutely insane tax bill the Senate GOP shoved into passage in the dead of the night on Friday.
“I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing,” Grassley told the Register, “as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”
What a terrible country we live in, where all but the top one percent are running around with their tits out, sucking on acid lollies, initiating street brawls, and demanding the hard-earned dollars of good millionaires like Chuck Grassley. It’s kind of crazy to see Republicans still using this line in the midst of a populist uprising, but in the alternate universe where most congressional Republicans apparently live, a citizen’s virtue rises and falls with their income—a convenient orthodoxy for a political party taking direct orders from the donor class.
The estate tax, which was repealed entirely under the House’s tax bill and dramatically scaled back in the Senate’s version, is a tax on the richest Americans, currently amounting to a 40% tax on assets exceeding $5.5 million for individuals and $11 million for couples. It is not, as Grassley has attempted to frame it, a crushing burden on Iowa’s hardworking farmers.
But a review of federal tax data and nonpartisan research on the subject shows that family farmers and small business owners represent a tiny share of estate tax payers, and that the taxes they owe rarely force them to sell land or quit farming.
The number of Iowans paying the estate tax actually numbers in the dozens each year, out of roughly 1.4 million who file federal tax returns each year. IRS data from the last five years shows the number of Iowa taxpayers owing estate taxes ranged from 32 in 2012 to 61 in 2015, and that the vast majority of those probably were not farmers or small business owners.
Yes—many thanks to Chuck Grassley and all of his colleagues for fighting the good fight on their constituents’ behalf.