Schlafly Slaps Perry, Redefines ‘Middle Class’

by Dan Quinn

It’s fascinating to watch religious-righters fight among themselves over which Republican candidate is extreme enough to support for president in next year’s elections. Today we saw one religious-right leader, Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum, even redefine “middle class” in her attack on Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s proposed flat-ish tax.

Schlafly — who says nice things about Herman Cain and Rick Santorum in the race for the GOP presidential nomination — argues in a column today that Gov. Perry “want(s) to undermine marriage.” She’s angry that his tax plan, which she says has an “anti-family bias,” isn’t hard enough on unmarried parents. And in rejecting the claim by a Perry spokesman that the plan “protects the middle class,” Schlafly even redefines what “middle class” means:

“No; giving that size deduction to unmarried parents, defined as ‘individuals and their dependents,’ means rewarding bad behavior and is, by definition, outside the middle class. Regardless of income, you can’t be middle class without respecting middle-class values, the most important of which is marriage.”

“Bad behavior”? “Regardless of income”? Would a married billionaire couple with 2.5 kids qualify as “middle class,” Phyllis? And an unmarried couple living pay check-to-pay check wouldn’t qualify?

Let’s leave aside the weaknesses and (if there are any) merits of Gov. Perry’s proposed tax plan. Schlafly’s self-serving definition of “middle class” is a classic example of the nonsense we’ve come to expect from the religious right.

Unfortunately, the Texas State Board of Education thinks she’s a political giant — the board’s far-right ideologues decided last year that Texas students in history classes learn about Schlafly and her political work. Of course, they also voted against teaching students that the American economy is based on “capitalism” (the word is a left-wing slur, they shrieked) and that our nation is a representative democracy. Now they probably want to redefine “middle class” in textbooks, too.