Iowa senator Chuck Grassley recently asserted that congressional Republicans’ proposal to eliminate 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.”
Senator Grassley, have you seen The Wolf of Wall Street?
It seems like he’s confusing the spending habits of some of the millionaires the Republican tax bill and estate tax help with what most everyday Americans do with their money. As a middle-class person, I don’t spend every penny I have but I certainly don’t have savings anywhere near the $10.98 million threshold that triggers the estate tax for a married couple. I enjoy the occasional adult beverage and a movie here and there, but these things don’t make up a significant portion of my spending.
The senator is right, however, in that I do spend quite a lot on women.
No, I’m not visiting sex workers or keeping a mistress in a luxury apartment in the city. I’m talking about the teachers and other staff at my daughter’s daycare center who do the important work of helping my husband and me raise our child. I’m talking about the women who work in the retail shops where I buy my clothes and the dry cleaner where I get them cleaned. The women who clean my house, allowing my evenings and weekends to be family time. The women who cut my hair. The women who clean the hotel rooms in which I’ve stayed. The receptionists, medical assistants, dental hygienists and nurses at every doctor’s and dentist’s office and hospital I’ve ever visited. The generations of lunch ladies who have served food to America’s schoolchildren. And someday, quite possibly, the home aides and nursing home staff who will help me eat, bathe and go to the bathroom.
Despite all the money I pay for work done primarily by women, only a small portion ultimately goes into their pockets. Generally, overwhelmingly female professions are some of the least glamorous and the least lucrative in terms of wages and health insurance and retirement benefits. Often, the pay for these jobs is so low that it’s impossible to make ends meet without taxpayer-funded services like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid. There’s a gender wage gap in every single county in Michigan.
Not to mention all of the women who are eligible for these services because they’ve had to leave the paid workforce to provide thousands of hours of unpaid labor caring for children or relatives who are aging or have disabilities. Additionally, women are disproportionately exploited by their employers through wage theft, making it even less likely that they will have a sizable fortune to leave to their heirs.
So, Senator Grassley, please stop talking about women and talk to us. Recognize that even though most of us won’t amass a multimillion-dollar legacy, we are investors, too—investors in the other women without whom our families and the American economy could not function. And if you want America to be great, Congress and state legislatures should invest in women, too, by raising the minimum wage, maintaining the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion, preserving the Earned Income Tax Credit, increasing child care subsidies and expanding paid family and sick leave.
Women are not a vice. They’re hardworking Americans whose labor is already undervalued and often invisible. Tell Congress not to reward the children of the wealthiest 0.2% of the nation with a tax cut that will help decimate the safety net so many women must rely on because society doesn’t recognize the true worth of their work.