Another great chunk from Forty Signs of Rain, by Kim Stanley Robinson.
“The average surplus value created by American workers is thirty-three dollars an hour.”
Anna said, “I wonder how they define surplus value.”
“Profit,” Frank said.
Edgardo shook his head. “You can cook the books and get rid of profit, but the surplus value, the value created beyond the pay for the labor, is still there.”
Anna said, “There was a page in here that said the average American worker puts in 1,950 hours a year. I thought that was questionable too, that’s forty hours a week for about forty-nine weeks.”
“Three weeks of vacation a year,” Frank pointed out. “Pretty normal.”
“Yeah, but that’s the average? What about all the part-time workers?”
“There must be an equivalent number of people who work overtime.”
“Can that be true? I thought overtime was a thing of the past.”
“You work overtime.”
“Yeah but I don’t get paid for it.”
The men laughed at her.
“They should have used the median,” she said. “The average is a skewed measure of central tendency. Anyway, that’s…” Anna could do calculations in her head. “Sixty-four thousand three hundred and fifty dollars a year, generated by the average worker in surplus value. If you can believe these figures.”
“What’s the average income?” Edgardo asked. “Thirty thousand?”
“Maybe less,” Frank said.
“We don’t have any idea,” Anna objected.
“Call it thirty, and what’s the average taxes paid?”
“About ten? Or is it less?”
Edgardo said, “Call it ten. So let’s see. You work every day of the year, except for three lousy weeks. You make around a hundred thousand dollars. Your boss takes two thirds, and gives you one third, and you give a third of that to the government. Your government uses what it takes to build all the roads and schools and police and pensions, and your boss takes his share and buys a mansion on an island somewhere. So naturally you complain about your bloated inefficient Big Brother of a government, and you always vote for the pro-owner party.” He grinned at Frank and Anna. “How stupid is that?”
Anna shook her head. “People don’t see it that way.”
“But here are the statistics!”
“People don’t usually put them together like that. Besides, you made half of them up.”
“They’re close enough for people to get the idea! But they are not taught to think! In fact they’re taught not to think. And they are stupid to begin with.”
Even Frank was not willing to go this far. “It’s a matter of what you can see,” he suggested. “You see your boss, you see your paycheck, it’s given to you. You have it. Then you’re forced to give some of it to the government. You never know about the surplus value you’ve created, because it was disappeared in the first place. Cooked in the books.”
“But the rich are all over the news! Everyone can see they have more than they have earned, because no one earns that much.”