Miss Susie Goes to Washington
Ten years ago today, as I stood in the back of an ornate committee room in the nation's capital holding six-week-old Mary Margaret, Susie testified before a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, which was considering a new $21 billion daycare plan. (She had been invited by Senator Don Nickles, who later wrote her a note praising her remarks.) Her testimony garnered coverage on News9, in the Tulsa World, and on the front page of The Oklahoman, and was printed on The Oklahoman's editorial page on Mother's Day. Here's what Susie (The Velvet Hammer) Dutcher told the committee:
Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for inviting me here today. I believe that politics and policy are important, and I respect your public service. I believe families are equally important, and I hope you respect my public service, which consists of providing the public with one healthy family, composed of well-adjusted, productive individuals.
I spend my days cooking for my husband and children, doing laundry, cleaning toilets, and vacuuming. I teach my children to read and do math, and I take them to the park. We do watercolors and science experiments, and I read them Aesop's fables and David and Goliath. I probably spend two hours a day in the rocking chair. After they're all tucked in bed, I fold the laundry and do the family budget on our computer. Believe it or not, I don't play golf or go to the club and play cards.
This is the life I've chosen, because I believe it's best for children, whenever possible, to be cared for by their mother rather than by strangers. I believe my job is important. And because of the time and money and energy I invest in their lives, I believe my children will grow up to do great things. I believe none of them will end up on the welfare rolls, in prison, or in any way dependent upon the state.
I used to be a schoolteacher, and certainly the salary and benefits I could earn teaching school would improve our material well-being. But some checks can't be cashed at the bank: My son Lincoln, when he was three years old, said to me one day, "I'm proud of you 'cause you do the right things. Like take a shower, and fix my breakfast ... Those kind of things."
I know it's all worth it when we're on the floor playing with blocks, and I notice out of the corner of my eye that he has stopped playing and is staring at me like a smitten young man. "I love the way you talk," he said to me. "And I love the way you smell."
"How do I smell?" I asked.
"Like a mommy."
There's no need for me to rattle off the social-science research on the importance of strong marriages and families – some truths are self-evident.
I mentioned I do the family bookkeeping, and I can tell you that taxes are far and away the biggest portion of our family budget. There are many things I would like to do with my husband's earnings, but, with all due respect to your honorables in both parties, you seem to believe you have the moral authority and the superior judgment to make those choices for us.
I would love to put more dollars into our retirement account, for example, but I'm forced to put them into your Social Security trust fund, which I don't trust. I'd like to buy more books for Lincoln, Elizabeth, and Mary Margaret, and put more money in their college fund, but you've already seen fit to use that money funding closed-captioning for the Jerry Springer show. I'd love to get ballet lessons for Elizabeth, but my money is tied up buying food stamps for the deceased. I'd love to give more money to support our church's missionary in Albania, or the free medical clinic in Oklahoma City, but instead I'm forced to fund fish farming in Arkansas and Social Security disability payments for escaped convicts. Call us greedy, but my husband and I would like for the most part to make our own choices concerning the fruit of our labor. But naturally, under threat of imprisonment, we defer to your choices.
I appreciate the opportunity to testify today, because your decisions deeply affect my family. I can't tell you how frustrated we are that, under budget agreements passed by Congress, federal revenue collections are set to rise from $1.35 trillion in 1995 to $1.9 trillion in 2002. That's why my husband and I traveled here at our own expense – to ask you to let up.
When Lincoln was three, one morning in the kitchen he motioned to his dad and me out of the blue and said, "You guys gather up." We obliged, and he put his little arms around us and prayed: "God, thank you for giving me my mommy and daddy. In Jesus' name, Amen."
I'm so glad I can be at home for my children, and I implore you not to craft public policies which discourage mothers from doing so. My husband and I certainly don't want to pay the day-care bills of two-income couples more affluent than ourselves. All we ask from you is to safeguard our family's liberty and property, and to stop taking them.