One of the most intriguing candidates seeking the White House is Peta Lindsay, the presidential candidate of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. Admittedly, the chances of a Lindsay administration seem rather slim – she is only on the ballot in 13 states and, at 28, she is seven years younger than the constitutional requirement for assuming the presidency. Nonetheless, she presents a distinctive point of view that has been absent from the presidential campaign. MortgageOrb spoke with Lindsay on how she would handle the current economic crises if she won the election.
Q: As the presidential candidate of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, how do you feel when President Obama's critics refer to his policies and proposals as ‘socialism’?
Lindsay: It is absurd when right wing, usually racist opponents of the Obama administration refer to his policies as ‘socialist.’ The current administration has been a great friend of the capitalist class – those who own the banks, large farms, factories, offices and other major means of production – continuing the Bush administration's policy of bailing out the biggest banks and corporations while taking little to no action to alleviate the suffering of poor and working people. In fact, the administration and other officials from both major parties are trying to shift the burden of the crisis onto poor and working people via massive cuts to vital social services.
A true socialist would do the opposite. Socialism means constructing a society where political and economic power is in the hands of poor and working people. A socialist administration would seize the assets of the big banks and make them public property, using these resources to provide jobs, health care, housing and education for all as well as to address the inequalities created by racism, sexism, anti-LGBT bigotry, imperialism and other ills of capitalist society.
Q: Your campaign literature calls for seizing the assets of the nation's major financial institutions and using ‘those resources in the interests of the vast majority.’ Could you please specify how these seized assets could be used, and would you be concerned about the legal ramifications of a federal seizure of this scope?
Lindsay: By creating a national people's bank, with open books and under the democratic control and administration of the people – including representatives from local community and neighborhood organizations; working families, students and youth; locally elected officials; unions; small business people; grassroots environmental organizations; and others – we can begin the process of reorganizing the economy to meet human needs.
We would put the assets and profits of the banks under the people's control to achieve the following goals: (1) Fund a massive jobs program, providing jobs for all with union wages, rights and benefits, and full rights for all workers regardless of citizenship or legal status. (2) Provide free education for all, cancel student debt, and fund free, quality education for everyone from Pre-K through college. (3) End all foreclosures and evictions, abolish interest payments to the banks and provide access to affordable housing for all.
The control of the banks and credit by a tiny ruling economic elite is not the consequence of divine mandate. Banks, like all corporations, are not people. They are paper entities, which exist solely because laws and society permit them to exist. They have no inherent and inalienable rights, not even the right to exist. Today, they exist to maximize the wealth of the few.
We say the banking function should be used to maximize the well-being of society. Since banks have no rights, there is no wrong – indeed, there are life-altering benefits – in seizing the banking function and placing it under the people's democratic control.
Q: Your campaign literature states that ‘Wall Street criminals must be held accountable’ for their actions. In your opinion, why has the Obama administration failed to bring criminal charges against many of the Wall Street executives at the core of the 2008 financial meltdown?
Lindsay: The failure of the Obama administration to prosecute the Wall Street criminals who caused the economic crisis is further proof that both major parties are fundamentally loyal to the interests of the capitalist class. From the bailouts to the cuts to social services to the legal immunity for the big bankers, it is undeniable that Washington works for Wall Street. In addition, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, and Citigroup were among the top ten contributors to the Obama campaign in 2008, which of course further guaranteed their safety from prosecution.
Q: What is your position on federal housing finance policy? Specifically, how should the government respond to the foreclosure crisis and the reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?
Lindsay: I believe that housing should be provided free of charge, a basic dignity guaranteed to every worker in the socialist society we fight for. Financing, to the degree necessary, could be carried out – interest free – by the publicly owned people's bank, which will manage the assets seized from Wall Street financial institutions.
In terms of the government's response to the foreclosure crisis and their decision to take Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into federal conservatorship, this move was intended to stabilize the real estate market – not in order to help homeowners, but to protect the profits of financial institutions and corporations. A people's government would have enacted an immediate moratorium on foreclosures and used the enormous, socially produced wealth of society to massively reduce or eliminate all mortgage payments.
Q: Why are so many Americans confused or upset over the concept of socialism as a political alternative?
Lindsay: The tremendous amount of misinformation about socialism, which has in turn caused many working people to be hostile or confused towards the concept, is just further proof that it represents the only true alternative to the exploitative and oppressive capitalist system. The school system, the media, pro-status quo intellectuals and others have viciously slandered socialism for well over a century, equating socialism with dictatorship, mindless conformity, etc.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Socialism simply refers to a society where political and economic power is held by poor and working people.
Most discussions of socialism neglect that every attempt to build socialist societies to date has taken place in very poor countries. The U.S. is a very rich country and, thus, direct comparisons between previous socialist regimes are misplaced as a potential U.S. socialist society would differ significantly in how principles could be applied.
However, opinions are rapidly changing, especially among the most oppressed sections of the working class. According to a Pew Center poll from December 2011, more young people, who have had their futures stolen by the crisis of capitalism, have a favorable view of socialism than have a favorable view of capitalism. African Americans, who have for centuries suffered from the most brutal forms of oppression and extreme exploitation, prefer socialism to capitalism at a rate of 55% to 36%. As the nature of capitalism becomes clearer and clearer, more and more people will fight for a socialist future.