Steve King has just asserted,
We need to have individual responsibility, a culture that supports it – that celebrates it – and one that discourages the slackers from lining up at the public trough and accepting the benefits of the sweat of someone else's brow."King is right – and wrong. The "slackers" do line up at the trough, sucking up the wealth and stealing it away from those who created it. But the trough we should be most concerned with is the private trough, not the commons.
Steve King, The Final Say with Brett & Jon Rappaport
A century ago, Big Bill Haywood observed, "If one man has a dollar he didn't work for, some other man worked for a dollar he didn't get." Haywood was mindful of a mechanism by which wealth created by working people is privatized and appropriated. The economic system serves as a money pump to force this wealth upward, to those who are already wealthy. Haywood worked as a miner in that purest of capitalistic endeavors, mining gold. Expressing his analysis of that system another way, Haywood remarked with grim irony, "[The mine owners] did not find the gold, they did not mine the gold, they did not mill the gold, but by some weird alchemy all the gold belonged to them!"
The capital mechanism of which Haywood was mindful (and contemptuous) has been called surplus value. Its existence and powerful influence may be appreciated and understood if one notes a simple, general reality: the more employees in a company, the greater the surplus value passed to the owners of that company. Surplus value as an economic concept has been disputed, ridiculed, and vilified by those who see it as a tenet of Marxism, yet it isn't a concept of Communism, it is a mechanism of Capital. That it exists, and acts as one of the primary mechanisms of capitalist accumulation (concentration of wealth), is indisputable. Indeed, it is one of the driving principles behind the capitalist maxim that business must always seek to expand – larger markets, more locations, more resources.
Some will argue that surplus value doesn't always describe the circumstance of a Capitalist enterprise. This is true; when surplus value is not available to increase the wealth of the already wealthy, workers are in danger of layoffs and business closings. By such means are significant business risks passed from owners to employees.
Here is one compelling example of the impact of surplus value: the wealthiest family in the world is the Wal-Mart heirs; Wal-Mart is "the world's #1 retailer with some 2.2 million employees." How far has the concentration of wealth progressed? The Wal-mart heirs are worth the same amount as the bottom 40 percent of Americans.
Let that sink in for a moment. If wealth were more fairly distributed and the Wal-Mart heirs weren't obsessive-compulsive over wealth like those folks on A&E are over cats and newspapers, one hundred twenty-five million Americans – those most in need – might have double their current net worth. That is not a small consideration.
The simple truth, then, is that one of the primary wealth-concentrating mechanisms of capital is the employer/employee contract. And those who mine no gold, transport no product, serve no customers, and count no inventory have been, and are gorging themselves in an increasingly privatized world, with wealth systematically and routinely snatched away from the working folks who create that wealth every day of their work lives.
Let us examine Steve King's statement within its full context:
"People are being told that it's not their fault, that it's somebody else's. They've been discriminated against because clearly they belong to some victims group somewhere or they are a victim, and they just haven't found the group to join. That's the excuse path. We need to have individual responsibility, a culture that supports it -- that celebrates it -- and one that discourages the slackers from lining up at the public trough and accepting the benefits of the sweat of someone else's brow."
King asserts that there is "a tremendous blessing in this society." It is largely reserved for those on the receiving end of surplus value.
The Steve Kings and other defenders of this economic system seek to obfuscate, laying the blame for wealth stratification on minorities, workers, the little people. So long as they may be vilified and shamed for their sense of "victimization", they may be distracted from any serious examination of the system that oppresses them.
Mitt Romney asks, who built that? The workers did. And we as working people need to educate ourselves about the role of propaganda in defending an increasingly indefensible economic system.