December 5, 2017

Even at age 84 it’s not too late to learn a life lesson.

Chuck Grassley, our octogenarian U.S. senator, a politician first elected to office in 1958 during the Eisenhower administration, is defending the Republican Party’s decision to deep-six the estate tax instead of directing more relief to middle- and lower-income Americans.

You see, when rich people grab more money, they invest, the senior senator tells us.

Working people? What do they do with an extra $150 or $200 a month? Let’s hear it from Grassley himself:

“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 said late last week on a conference call with the media.

Chuck, Chuck, Chuck, you should have learned long ago — perhaps during the Kennedy or Nixon presidencies — to steer clear of subjects on which you have no experience.

Of the tens of thousands of sources I’ve interviewed in 30 years of journalism Charles Grassley is among the last I’d approach for advice about women and liquor.

First, Grassley has never had a beer. Ever. And I believe him. He’s told me this in person at least three times.

“I am probably the wrong one to ask, because I have never tasted beer,” Grassley said, when queried last year by the media about whether Iowa’s universities should serve alcohol in football stadiums.

Grassley’s celebratory vices swirl the gamut from caramel to strawberry at the Dairy Queens he frequents.

As for women, even though Grassley came of age in the era of “Mad Men,” his approach to the opposite sex has been decidedly more loyal and limited. He’s never exactly been Wild For The Night.

Back in October, following in event in Jefferson, I asked Grassley about the then just-unfolding furor surrounding reports of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s alleged track record of sexual assault and harassment.

“I’ve only slept in bed with one woman my entire life. Does that answer your question?” Grassley said.

Chuck Grassley is so square that, historically, he balances out both Ron Jeremy (on the sex) and Frank Sinatra (on the drinking, and the women, too.)

What’s distressing is that Grassley sounds downright monarchical with his assessment of the masses, our money-managing decisions.

Old Charles II doesn’t think the lower classes, the serfs of rural America, are smart enough to spend their dimes and dollars wisely. Like a stern father to a child, Grassley, the Prude King of Northern Iowa, says the wealthy dukes of industry, the earls of commerce, should hold the gold. Only they have the breeding that breeds smart-money thinking, goes the Grassley thinking on the subject of how tax-taking should be divided among his subjects.

Cut taxes for the wage worker in Creston and he’ll blow the largesse on Busch Light no doubt. A 529 account for college for his daughter or son? Nope. He’ll go double butter on the popcorn at the new “Thor” movie.

And here in Carroll, senator, you are right, don’t even bother us with a tax cut. Slice out the middle man and just send one big federal check to Ossy’s Show Club, our local gentleman’s establishment, because every extra dollar in our hands will surely be G-stringed away from purposeful use before the clock strikes 2 a.m.

Grassley is acting as if our state is dotted with the sort of hard-living, coal-mining towns that no longer exist in southeastern Iowa.

Grassley really thinks most of us out here in rural, working Iowa would waste $1,000 tax cuts on booze and women. Which is an insult. On two fronts. That math would make our women cheap and liquor pretty expensive. Grassley should market-test his economic theories before making them public.

There’s something else that jumps out in Grassley’s comment. It’s the very picture of patriarchy, this suggestion that money is something for men to spend on obtaining pleasures from women, that women are objects to be bought, accessories for a boozy night. What about all the households headed by single mothers, senator? Where do they “waste” their tax breaks? Booze and romantic comedy downloads or DVDs? Or can they get themselves a man with the spoils from the GOP tax plan?

Bottom line: Grassley ought to apologize to Bruce Braley for making him apologize.

Saying ordinary folks can’t be trusted to fend off temptation with a few extra dollars in their hands is just as elitist as suggesting a farmer with no law degree can’t serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Now, seriously, senator, about that tax cut. Just between you and me, can I get mine in all one-dollar bills. After all, we both know how I’m going to spend it.

At the movies, of course.