Sen. Grassley says the estate tax unfairly favors people who waste money on 'booze or women or movies'

Sen. Chuck Grassley does not like the estate tax
(Image credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Senate and House versions of the Republican tax overhaul legislation both contain provisions that would double the exemption for the estate tax — to $11 million for the estates of individuals and $22 million for couples — and the House version ends the estate tax entirely after 2024. Iowa's GOP congressional delegation is thrilled with the provision, the Des Moines Register reports, with a typical response being Rep. Steve King's contention that the estate tax "often falls hardest on family-owned farms and small businesses."

That isn't true, the Register notes, citing IRS and Agriculture Department data showing that only a few dozen of the 5,000 Americans who pay the estate tax each year are family farmers or small-business owners, and almost none of them live in Iowa. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, told the Register that regardless of the numbers for farmers, the estate tax is unfair philosophically, targeting savers instead of spenders. "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," he said.

The Senate version of the estate tax changes would cost the U.S. Treasury $83 billion over 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, while the House version would cost $150.7 billion — which is a lot of booze, women, and movie tickets.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.