WATERLOO — It wasn’t exactly happy hour outside U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley’s Waterloo office Tuesday afternoon.
About 20 protesters, organized by Black Hawk County Supervisor Chris Schwartz, an organizer for progressive activist group Americans for Democratic Action-Iowa, showed up in bone-chilling wind outside the Waterloo Building where Grassley’s office is located. They carried empty liquor bottles in protest of a comment Grassley made in a Des Moines Register interview about a pending tax bill. Grassley says the comment is being taken out of context.
Grassley, in a comment about eliminating estate taxes on assets such as family farm operations, told the Register: “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.”
ADA-Iowa issued a press release that said, “Women, booze, and movies, that’s (how) Senator Chuck Grassley says working families spend their money. It is why he voted to give massive tax cuts to the rich and stick us (with) the bill ... it shows just how far removed Chuck has become from the hard working Iowans he is supposed to represent.”
“Grassley hasn’t listened to any of his constituents. He’s more or less just for big business,” said protester Sue Vogel of Waterloo, retired from the Iowa Mental Health Institute in Independence.
Schwartz, a Democrat, said of himself and Republican Grassley, “We are both elected officials and if I ever thought, let alone said, something so sexist, elitist and arrogant I would immediately turn in my resignation. You can’t do your job as an elected official if you have such a low opinion of the people you represent.”
“He should not be able to talk that way. It’s just disgusting. He used to be a nice guy,” said protestor Renata Sack of Waterloo.
Grassley, who farms near New Hartford, responded with a statement further explaining his comment.
“My point regarding the estate tax, which has been taken out of context, is that the government shouldn’t seize the fruits of someone’s lifetime of labor after they die,” the senator said. “The question is one of basic fairness, and working to create a tax code that doesn’t penalize frugality, saving and investment. That’s as true for family farmers who have to break up their operations to pay the IRS following the death of a loved one as it is for parents saving for their children’s college education or working families investing and saving for their retirement.”
Schwartz was asked by building staff to move away from the building. The protest was conducted on the public sidewalk as Waterloo police and Waterloo Building private security stood by.
A similar protest was planned outside Grassley’s Des Moines office.