If Hillary Clinton is more capable than Donald Trump of wielding U.S. military and financial dominance to endanger lives at home and abroad, does that make Trump the “lesser evil” in the 2016 presidential election?

Yes, suggests political economist Michael Hudson.

“You sort of prefer [Trump], … right?” asks Ross Ashcroft in a Renegade Inc. interview with Hudson. “Because … you don’t want a resourceful, intelligent and influential type in the job because the job’s so powerful.”

Hudson replies: “Well, both Hillary and Donald Trump say the election is about the lesser evil. So, if that’s true, who’s the greater evil? Hillary has a whole crowd behind her—the neocons, who basically want to be very confrontational toward Russia and continue what she was doing in Libya to Syria. … Or you have Donald Trump, who doesn’t really know who he can appoint and whether he can get enough people to work with him.

“So, if the direction of America is to try to hold on to a unipolar world—[to be] militarily confrontational—[then] you want a president who is least able to do evil. And there’s no question, Trump is the lesser evil because he’s such a narcissist.”

When Truthdig contacted Hudson by phone to point out that the financial sector and the military-industrial complex are sufficiently organized to pursue their interests regardless of who holds the presidency, Hudson replied: “Well, maybe they’re equal evils. Neither candidate — nor Obama, nor George Bush, nor Bill Clinton — has had any independent policy at all. They’re just front people to give the public the illusion that they’re voting.”

Read a rushed transcript of Hudson’s exchange with Ashcroft, below.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly

Ross Ashcroft: You’ve got two candidates in the U.S. and one is very pro-Wall Street, specifically Goldman Sachs. She might as well be on the payroll. In fact, she is on the payroll. And the other is a rent-seeker-in-chief, and he’s built real estate and used the banks. So you’ve got Trump and you’ve got Clinton. Both of them are in bed with Wall Street, fundamentally. But the people get it now.

Michael Hudson: Well, I think Hillary Clinton has a 79 percent disapproval rating, and Trump has an 81 percent disapproval rating. So you have the two most unpopular politicians in the United States as the choice. So basically, the voters in the United States are given a choice: “Yes,” — “Yes, please,” and “Yes, thank you.” I think Trump missed his big chance to make a populist push. Instead of saying he’s going to cut taxes on Wall Street, he can say, “Look, I stiffed the banks. I went bankrupt four or six times. I screwed the banks and they didn’t get paid and I can screw the banks for you people. Vote for me. I know how to do it.”

Ashcroft: Yes, he’s missed that.

Hudson: I think that would have been his winning ploy.

Ashcroft: You should be his campaign strategist.

Hudson: Well, except I don’t think I’d have many friends if I worked for Donald Trump. And we don’t know that if he agreed with me today what he’d do tomorrow. That’s part of the problem. He doesn’t play well with colleagues.

Ashcroft: You sort of prefer him though — would that be right? Because he doesn’t play well with colleagues, because he’s awkward, because he’s a loner, because — because you’re saying you don’t want a resourceful, intelligent and influential type in the job because the job’s so powerful.

Hudson: Well, both Hillary and Donald Trump say the election is about the lesser evil. So, if that’s true, who’s the greater evil? Hillary has a whole crowd behind her — the neocons, who basically want to be very confrontational toward Russia and continue what she was doing in Libya to Syria — militarily confrontational. Or you have Donald Trump, who doesn’t really know who he can appoint and whether he can get enough people to work with him. So if the direction of America is to try to hold on to a unipolar world — militarily confrontational — you want a president who is least able to do evil. And there’s no question, Trump is the lesser evil because he’s such a narcissist, and really sort of a blank slate. And I’d rather take a “pig in a poke” than someone who — you already know what Hillary will do. She’ll do what the husband does. And it’s — the Clintons have corrupted the Democratic Party. That’s what Bernie Sanders ran on against her–

Ashcroft: And did very well.

Hudson: And did very well. But then he didn’t realize that there really cannot be any progress by the labor unions, or consumers, or the 99 percent as long as the Democratic Party is controlled totally by Wall Street and by the Robert Rubin gang that they brought in. And they’re really like a mafia gang. If you think the financial sector and the banking sector as crime — and after all, remember, they’ve paid billions and billions of dollars in civil fines without a single banker being sent to jail — that’s what a criminal wants to do. When the criminals take control of the justice system and take over the police force and bribe the judges — all the Hollywood movies in the 1930s were that — then you’ve got the criminals in control. And you’ve got the financial sector criminalized. That’s what my colleague Bill Black at the University of Missouri at Kansas City has been emphasizing, and he’s convinced all of us that the business plan of the big banks — Citibank, Bank of America, we’ve just got, and Wells Fargo, with all of the huge frauds that are coming out — that was their business plan: fraud. And people are afraid to say that fraud is banking. They’re afraid to say just exactly what the evidence is because it’s considered impolite to talk about reality.

Ashcroft: What sort of president then will Hillary Clinton be?

Hudson: A dictator. She… a vindictive dictator, punishing her enemies, appointing neocons in the secretary of state, in the defense department, appointing Wall Street people in the Treasury and the Federal Reserve, and the class war will really break out very explicitly. And she’ll — as Warren Buffet said, there is a class war and we’re winning it.

Ashcroft: As in the one percent are winning it.

Hudson: The one percent are winning it. And she will try to use the rhetoric to tell people: “Nothing to see here folks. Keep on moving,” while the economy goes down and down and she cashes in as she’s been doing all along, richer and richer, and if she’s president, there will not be an investigator of the criminal conflict of interest of the Bill Clinton Foundation, of pay-to-play. You’ll have a presidency in which corporations who pay the Clintons will be able to set policy. Whoever has the money to buy the politicians will buy control of policy because elections have been privatized and made part of the market economy in the United States. That’s what the Citizens United Supreme Court case was all about.

Ashcroft: So that’s another example of rent-seeking.

Hudson: Yes, political payoffs. And that’s the largest rent-seeking of all. Basically, for paying one penny, you get a whole dollar’s worth of special privileges. And rent is really payment for a privilege. It’s for a privilege that’s created from the private sector. And basically as Balzac said, every great fortune originates in a great theft that isn’t considered a great theft anymore because it’s all viewed as part of the market. It’s viewed as if that’s how the world works. So you’ll have a theft taking place and the Clintons will say, “That’s just how the world operates and GDP is going up because we’re getting richer, enough to offset the degree by which you 99 percent are getting poor.”Ashcroft: Geopolitically, let’s talk about some of the rhetoric that Hillary has used. And let’s talk about some of the old foes: Russia and America. What’s your view on the clear fact that they’ve been poking the bear for a long time now. That antagonism and how that’s going to play out over the next five years.

Hudson: Well, after 1991 when the Soviet Union broke up, it really went neoliberal. And Putin is basically a neoliberal. So there’s not a clash of economic systems as there was between capitalism and communism. What America objects to in Russia is that Americans couldn’t buy control of their oil, couldn’t buy control of their natural resources, couldn’t buy control of their public utilities and charge economic rents and continue to make Russia the largest stock market boom in the world as it was from 1994 through 1998 when there was the crisis. So the conflict is not one of economic systems. It’s simply that America wants to control other countries and keep other countries within the dollar orbit. And what that means is that if the whole world saves in the form of dollars, that means saving by buying Treasury bonds. And that means lending all of the balance-of-payments surplus that Russia or China or other countries look at, by lending it to the U.S. Treasury, which will use that money to militarily encircle these countries and threaten to do to any country that seeks to withdraw from the dollar system exactly what they did to Iraq or Libya or Afghanistan, or now Syria. And other countries are trying to withdraw from this and America says, “Well, we can smash you.” No country’s going to invade any other country. There’s not going to be a military draft in any country ‘cause the students; the population would rise up. Nobody’s going to invade, and you can’t control or occupy a country if you don’t have an army. So the only thing that America can do — or any country can do militarily — is drop bombs. And that’s sort of the equivalent of, just like the European Central Bank told Greece, “We’ll close down your banks and the ATM machines will be empty,” America will say, “Well, we’ll bomb you, make you look like Syria and Libya if you don’t turn over your oil, your pipelines, your utilities to American buyers so we can charge rents; we can be the absentee landlords. We can conquer the world financially instead of militarily. We don’t need an army; we can use finance. And the threat of military warfare and bombing you to achieve things.” Other countries are trying to stay free of the mad bomber, and it’s all about who’s going to control the world’s natural resources: water, real estate, utilities — not a question of economic systems so much anymore.

Ashcroft: So what’s the endgame?

Hudson: Well, one endgame is for the world to blow up! For other countries to say, “There’s one way we have of being equal, and that’s mutually assured destruction. You bomb us, we’ll bomb you. We’ll be back to the Stone Age. We’d rather have that than be in slavery to you.” And the American neoliberals said, “You have to do what we say.” And essentially that’s international slavery. And so Russia has said, “If you shoot down an American plane in Syria, or if you—

Ashcroft: Russian plane.

Hudson: Russian plane — Then we don’t have time to tell where the bomb’s coming from. If it’s coming from one of your submarines or destroyers, we’re going to knock you out.” Is that worth blowing up the world? Well, President Obama, even though he’s a tool of Wall Street, at least he says, “It’s not worth blowing up the world to fight in the near east.” Hillary says, “It is worth pushing the world back to the Stone Age if they don’t let us and me, Hillary, tell the world how to behave.” That’s a danger of the world and that’s why the Europeans should be terrified of a Hillary presidency and terrified of the direction that America is doing, saying, “We want to control the world.” It’s not control the world through a different economic philosophy. It’s to control the world through ownership of their land, natural resources and essentially, governments and monetary systems. That’s really what it’s all about. And the popular press is not doing a good job of explaining that context, but I can assure you, that’s what they’re talking about in Russia, China and South America.

Ashcroft: When you flesh that out, a lot of right-thinking, intelligent, compassionate, international Americans must look at this presidential campaign with their head in their hands. But they also must think, “God, if Hillary does get it, we’ve gotta brace ourselves for being even more unpopular globally.”

Hudson: The result is what the Irish call “voting with their backsides.” There’s been lower voter turnout in every election and people will prefer simply not to vote because there really isn’t any third party in America. The Republicans and Democrats are both financed by Wall Street and the real estate interests and monopolies, and it’s like “Yes” and “Yes, please” are the names of the two parties. There really is no alternative, and that’s the objective of control: to create a society in which there is no choice. That’s what a free market is really all about: preventing any choice by the people except what the government gives them. That’s what the Austrian school was all about in the 1920s, waging war and assassination against the labor leaders and the socialists in Vienna, and that’s what the free marketers in Chile were all about in the mass assassinations of labor leaders, university professors, intellectuals, and that’s exactly the situation in America today without the machine guns, because the population doesn’t really feel that it has any alternative, but has the illusion of choice in choosing either between which is the lesser evil. They get to vote for the lesser evil when it’s all really the same process.

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