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Stories Added - May 2009
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Today’s women are mothers and leaders to our children
Polk County Enterprise - May 2009
This month, American families will celebrate Mother’s Day and set aside one Sunday to honor the women who are the foundation of our society. Mothers are the first teachers of the leaders of tomorrow. They embody strength and tenderness, and impart wisdom and grace in the lives of their children. My own mother gave me the support in all my endeavors that strengthened my resolve to overcome obstacles. President Theodore Roosevelt said, in honor of his mother, Martha, “The mother is the one supreme asset of national life; she is more important by far than the successful statesman, or business man, or artist, or scientist.” More and more in today’s society, a woman has the opportunity to contribute to society both as a mother and a leader. As a U.S. Senator, I take my work very seriously.
I never forget that the decisions I make each day impact the lives of millions of Texans. But I work 24-7 to do my most important job: being mother to my two children. I am not alone in balancing such a great set of responsibilities. Twelve of the 17 women in the U.S. Senate are mothers. Seven of us are working moms with children at home, and we each juggle the daily demands of motherhood, while keeping up with the needs of our constituents. We arrange play dates, help with math and spelling homework, attend sporting events, chaperone Girl and Boy Scout campouts, and more.
The experience of balancing a fulltime job with a full-time family has given me a unique insight into the needs of working families across Texas and throughout our nation. Moms who work inside the home while volunteering for school, organizations, church and community, or those who work in a profession outside the home, deserve our gratitude. I have been fortunate to use this perspective to shape legislation that will empower mothers to make choices that are best for them and their children. In fact, two of my proudest legislative accomplishments have been borne out of family considerations. When I was a single woman in the workforce, I started an individual retirement account to save tax-free for the future.
I could set aside up to $2,000 in this account. After I married and was in between careers, I learned that a married woman who didn’t have an outside job could only set aside $250. I was shocked by this inequity. A woman who works in the home raising her family may be the most vulnerable if she loses her husband through death or divorce. And a woman who moves in and out of the workforce to have children should not be penalized for responding to her family priorities. After I was elected to the U.S. Senate, one of the first pieces of legislation I introduced was the homemaker IRA, which is the law today. It allows women to set aside the same amount, regardless of employment status. Women who choose to work outside the home also should not be penalized for this choice.
In many cases, a mother works because her income is necessary to help pay the mortgage, buy groceries, or put a child through college. Some just like to work. And the marriage tax, which unfairly targets husbands and wives who are jointly working to meet their family’s needs, pushes married couples into a higher tax bracket than two single wage earners taking in the same combined income. I began the fight to reverse this inequity in 2001. Under the old policy, an estimated 25 million couples paid a penalty of $1,141 for being married.
In 2001, my legislation was enacted. On the first day of the 111th Congress, I introduced the Permanent Marriage Penalty Relief Act of 2009 to outlaw this tax policy, once and for all. Being a mother might be the hardest job in the world, and it is undoubtedly the most important. But it is also the most rewarding. One day is not enough to recognize all that mothers do for their families, but it is a wonderful opportunity to say thank you to that special mom in our lives. Kay Bailey Hutchison is the senior U.S. Senator from Texas.