The Socialist candidate for president was in Buffalo last weekend.
There were no street closings, Secret Service or media hordes, because it wasn’t Barack Obama, despite what Fox News might say.
No, this was the real Socialist candidate, Peta Lindsay, whose presence on the ballot in New York and 12 other states should at least prompt the question: What has the free market done for me lately?
As Mitt Romney runs as the unabashed capitalist and Obama runs away from any notion that saving Detroit or asking more from the superwealthy smacks of socialism, Lindsay revels in the word and even sees things moving her way.
“A lot of people are beginning to question a system that hasn’t brought them very much,” the 28-year-old Howard University graduate says.
She points to a December 2011 Pew Research Center poll in which 49 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 had a positive reaction to the word “socialism,” while 43 percent reacted negatively. Overall, nearly a third of Americans reacted positively – which is remarkable, given the stridence of our free-market indoctrination.
Lindsay even sees the Republican Party helping the cause by applying the label to Obama’s policies.
“So people who want health care are like, ‘Yeah, well maybe I’m a socialist,’ ” she said, sitting in a Sweet Avenue home in one of the poorest parts of Buffalo.
But partisan labeling aside, the data is what should convince Americans that something is fundamentally wrong with the economic system they’ve been handed by those for whom it works best.
Something is fundamentally wrong when stock market indexes were up by double digits through the first three quarters, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the real disposable personal income you had to spend, after taxes and inflation, declined by 0.3 percent in August.
Something is fundamentally wrong when the Government Accountability Office said the Agriculture Department paid farmers $10.6 billion between 2003 and last year not to farm at the same time Feeding America said 33 million adults and 16 million children were hungry in 2011.
Something is fundamentally wrong when productivity rises – as it did by 2.2 percent in the second quarter – primarily because employers stopped hiring and sat on profits while 12 million Americans look for work.
Something is fundamentally wrong when Bureau of Labor Statistics graphs show diverging lines as productivity outpaces pay, and when Federal Reserve charts show corporate profits skyrocketing as the employment/population ratio plummets and the ratio of employee compensation to GDP nose-dives.
When the top 1 percent control 43 percent of the wealth and the top 5 percent control 72 percent, while 15 percent of Americans live in poverty and the middle class shrinks, something is fundamentally wrong.
Despite such data, Lindsay – who is legally too young to serve – won’t get many votes, here or elsewhere. The goal of her Party for Socialism and Liberation is to build a movement. She quotes a South African anti-apartheid activist: All revolutions are impossible until they happen; then they become inevitable.
With the kind of record our two-party duopoly is amassing, the only question is: How long?