We run an ongoing series at Refinery29 called Money Diaries, in which women from around the country (and occasionally the world) share a week of their life and spending. To get an idea of their regular expenses, we ask each diarist to include their housing costs, any loan payments, and even the cost of transportation.
Obviously, we've been a little lax. Chuck Grassley, a Republican Senator from Iowa, might say we've been remiss not to include sections for "booze, women, or movies," per his recent comments to The Des Moines Register.
Grassley, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, was defending cuts to the estate tax included in the GOP tax bill. He said repealing 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."
The implication that most Americans don't have millions of dollars to leave to their children because they're squirreling their money away on action sequels and Miller High Life is absurd. It's also pretty dark given that the GOP bill imposes outsize tax burdens on graduate students and teachers, who would go deeper into debt for education and school supplies.
As for the estate tax, even Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin concedes that getting rid of it "disproportionately helps rich people." The IRS only imposes the tax when someone leaves assets greater than $5.49 million to their heirs, increasing to $5.6 million in 2018.
Many people found humor in Grassley's comments, especially women who, by definition, are spending money on themselves.
People were also disturbed that Grassley lumped women in with booze and movies:
Others pointed out the LOL-worthy correlation between wealth and frugality with alcohol. Grassley might want to go see The Great Gatsby — or better yet, just read the book, since moviegoing leads to poverty.
MarketWatch took a closer look at Americans' expenses, highlighting research that "middle-income households spend about 50% of their income on luxuries and 50% on necessities, [the] wealthiest families spend around 65% of their consumption on luxury goods and 35% on necessities, [and] the lowest-income families spend 40% on luxuries and 60% on necessities."
Americans' spending on entertainment is about the same as it was during the Great Depression (percentage-wise), and necessities make up most people's expenses, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics; 33% of spending goes toward housing, 16% toward transportation, 12% toward food (compared to 0.8% on alcohol), and healthcare comprises 8%.
A 2017 report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition indicated that only 12 U.S. counties have affordable housing for low-wage workers, but hey — trying to stay on top of the latest films in the Marvel universe is the problem, right?
Grassley later said that his quotes were "taken out of context," and shifted the focus to "family farmers who have to break up their operations to pay the IRS following the death of a loved one." The thing is, a minuscule number of farmers actually have assets that would enable them to take advantage of the estate tax, and after the death of a loved one, those who might have other options anyway.