When Governor Mitt Romney announced Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate, I thought to myself how proud his mom must have been at that moment, and I wanted to tell her "From one mom to another Betty Ryan, great job!" Congratulations Betty Ryan, please join Virginia Dell Kelley, Kathleen "Kit" Gingrich, and Stanley Ann Dunham in an elite club of single mothers who raised influential American leaders. As examples of strong American mothers who lived the dream and walked the walk, you have earned the right to brag about your boys in public and tell off any politicians who might refer to single mothers as a social ill.
Although my politics are 180 degrees to the left of Rep. Ryan's, I even felt the need to congratulate the last three generations of Ryan family women. Despite the fact that their husbands died young at age 55, 57, and 59, these widowed single mothers raised sons who went on to become educated and respected leaders and good fathers. How did they manage?
Back in the 1970s Paul Ryan Sr. (a Janesville attorney) worked while his wife Betty Ryan bore and raised their four children, Paul Jr. being the youngest. Most news this weekend failed to report that the reason Rep. Ryan became an avid fitness buff and outdoorsman could be that when he was young, Betty often took her husband and their children on hiking and skiing trips in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. When Paul Sr. unexpectedly died, he made Betty a widowed mother. Paul Jr. was just 16 years old, and his older siblings were still in college. The finances may have been strained, yet instead of confiscating Paul Jr.'s social security check and using the money to pay for things the family probably needed (like food and shelter,) Betty let Paul Jr. keep his government benefits and use them to pay for his own college tuition. To support her family, Betty too somehow found a way to work and go back to school to learn interior design. When her own mother became sick, Betty took her in, then taught Paul Jr. and his siblings how to love and care for their sick grandmother when they were home on college breaks.
Contrary to what you may have inferred from the vice presidential nominee's acceptance speech Saturday (which was all about his dad,) it was actually Betty Ryan who inspired and caused her son to become a career politician. After college, Paul Jr. came back to Wisconsin and was as Betty put it, "destined to become a ski bum." Thanks to a good "tongue lashing" and encouragement from his mother, Paul Jr. accepted a job offer in Washington, D.C. working as an economist attached to Senator Bob Kasten's office. The rest is history.
Although I'm sure Rep. Ryan's father would be proud of his son's accomplishments were he here today, perhaps Paul Sr. would also have wanted his wife Betty to receive credit where credit was due? What is it with politicians who romanticize about their absent fathers? After their abusive fathers abandoned their pregnant mothers, Ann Stanley and Kit Gingrich raised their kids alone. Like Betty, Ann went back to school and became a noted anthropologist. Barack actually wrote an entire book dedicated to the father he did not meet until he was an adult. Married three times and father to two daughters, thus far Newt has personally manufactured two single mothers who prior to their divorce contributed heavily to his political success. Newt credits himself with creating "welfare reform" and the same fraud-riddled Fatherhood programs that divert money away from starving mothers and children and into the pockets of violent single men suing for custody of the victims.
Now in a position of power to actually ensure the safety and success of the next similarly situated generation of young leaders, why all three of these politicians joined forces to economically castrate support poor mothers and instead supported Newt's wasteful Fatherhood programs?
In his acceptance speech, Rep. Ryan talked about having "the courage to tell the truth," making sure to give small businesses credit for building America ("You did that!" ), then quoted his father as teaching him to appreciate what you have and saying "you are either part of the solution or part of the problem." What Rep. Paul actually has is an amazing mother, and his wife Janna Little (a tax attorney) raising his two young sons and a daughter alone in Wisconsin while he works in Washington, D.C. all week.
Governor Romney actually had the opposite problem last spring when he credited his wife for raising their five kids alone, when in reality he forgot to thank the FOUR household servants helping her. Are these types of faceless labor investments some of the benefits of being rich enough to pay someone to figure out how to beat the U.S. tax codes by keeping your assets off shore? At the time, the cost of daycare in MA was $1,200 per month without a subsidy voucher.
Mothers, listen closely to what your leaders are telling you. As Ezra Klein put it:
"... while they certainly believe parenting is toil, they don't believe it is, in any real sense, work. And you can see that in the laws they've made.
After all, it's not just TANF that doesn't recognize parenting as "work." Social Security doesn't count parenting as "work." The tax code doesn't count parenting as "work." The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't count parenting as "work."
Those statutory distinctions don't matter to wealthier parents like Ann Romney. She's not looking for government benefits. Politicians can pander to her by merely recognizing the labor she puts in. But to poorer mothers, those benefits mean quite a lot. Politicians, however, don't pander to poorer mothers. They put them to work."
Congratulations to Mrs. Ryan and the belated Ms. Dunham, but politicians beware. Come November, voters will remember whether you credited the mothers, wives and daughters who made you thereby ensuring people understand that the labor and contributions of single mothers to the next generation should be recognized and valued as important to a successful nation. If it comes down to (a) subsidizing bankers who fleeced home owners and tax payers, tanked the economy, were rewarded with TARP, then invested OUR money in fighting the DOJ from recouping their losses, and (b) giving the next Mrs. Ryan a daycare voucher so she can go to school, how will Rep. Ryan vote?
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