Stephens: Kurt Vonnegut's State of the Union
Jan. 27, 2014 7:13 p.m. ET
The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren't only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General. —From " Harrison Bergeron " (1961), a short story by Kurt Vonnegut The year was 2019 and Americans were finally on their way toward real equality. Not just equality in God's eyes, or before the law, or in opportunity. They were going to be equal every which way.
All this equality was due to bold new government action. There was the Decent Wage Act of 2017, which pegged the minimum wage to the (inflation-adjusted) average hourly wage of 2016. There was the NEW-AMT, which set a 55% minimum federal tax rate on individual income over $150,000 (or 80% for incomes above $500,000). There was the Unemployment Insurance Is Forever Act of 2018. There was the 2018 De Blasio-Waxman CEO Pay Act, which mandated a 9-to-1 ratio between the highest and lowest paid person in any enterprise. Happily, none of this harmed the economy in the slightest. Higher minimum wages have "no discernible effect on employment" ( Schmitt, 2013). High marginal tax rates have no effect on productivity and business creation (Piketty-Saez, 2011). Preserving jobless benefits puts money into the hands of consumers and thus stimulates the economy (Zandi, as usual). As for the 9-to-1 pay ratio—that's just plain fairness, OK? New rules on income weren't the only way America was achieving equality. Thanks to the efforts of Attorney General Thomas Perez, disparate outcome lawsuits were changing the country's public culture in unexpected ways. For example, the average height of NBA players for the 2007-08...
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