Grassley School of Personal Finance

The honorable Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-IA, suggests we’d all be wealthy and subject to the estate tax if only we’d not spend so much money on “whisky (sic), women and movies.” This is clearly the opus to The Grassley School of Personal Finance. He could have so many emeritus contributors, like Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI.

Well, as Philip Bump notes in theĀ Washington Post, if you forego buying 310,000 bottles of whiskey, you’d have $5.5 million instead. Or, a heck of a lot of date nights, 83,000, with my 45-year spouse (the “spending on women” thing confuses me as what in Grassley’s experience suggests spending is widespread on, politely, escort services?). Or, 523,000 viewings of Justice League.

Bump missed so much that Grassley clearly would include in his curriculum. If I could only spurn some two million cups of cafe coffee I’d achieve $5.5 million; if my kids could have foregone 1,890,034 school lunches (at $2.91 average cost); if only …

Let’s turn to Ryan, who suggested a single mother earning $30,000 will see a $711 increase in her tax refund under the GOP tax reform package. This is n amount sufficient, he said, to “start saving for her future.” But the benefits to Ryan’s mythical “Cindy” expire in the House “tax reform” bill though Ryan promises they won’t. I’m sure Cindy will be able to find an investment use for the $59.25 that she’ll see at least once.

Of course. Maybe Cindy would like a better apartment than the $700 a month, or 28% of her gross monthly income she mythically pays. Pray she not work in a metro area as the median rent where I live 45 minutes northwest of Chicago is more than $1,500. “Pray” must be good as several religious bloggers boast of living well on $30,000 a year. My research was road-blocked by the first blog’s reference to accepting boarders as a means of defraying housing costs. I’m doubting mythical Cindy’s mythical $700 apartment has a spare bedroom.

Unfortunately for Cindy, $59.25 a month boost won’t help get her through community college, which might be a fine investment, but average costs were $3,260 two years ago. (The last data I found.) In demand technical certificates could get her a job boasting about $39,000. The roughly $5.8 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy would cover two years of community college for 1,779,141 people. Maybe a tuition tax credit would help! No, too progressive?

I might be wrong in this and plenty of families are living comfortably or not on $30,000 a year. But the point is that Grassley and Ryan et al simply can’t see the complexities of life in America if they think their tax reform is a solution. If you’re one of those who voted GOP because of diminished opportunities, perhaps you’ll think hard on their message and lack of empathy for people like their mythical Cindy. Last I saw, the top 1%, even top 20%, weren’t lacking for opportunities but I’m sure will welcome the tens and hundreds of thousands they’ll get in benefit from the GOP efforts.

Maybe, and this is entirely sarcastic, Cindy and her 11-year-old daughter could become one of those “women” on which Sen. Grassley thinks people of all gender identities (he’s politically correct, right?) are spending so much money. Best that they move to Alabama where such activity seems acceptable at young age.


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