Marolt: It seems we are all selling our country short
July 31, 2018
Many years ago — before I learned the best way to manage a retirement account is to ignore it; just stick the whole wad, the monetary equivalent of a stick of Trident gum under a theater seat, into a couple of index funds and forget you even have it because you are never going to be able to retire anyway — I knew an investment expert who convinced me that the market was poised for a huge crash and introduced me to short-selling stocks.
It was a magical experience! Before friends' and family's eyes, the fiscal hocus-pocus turned this prince, albeit a lowly and humble one with no power and little natural charm, into a toad.
The fundamental principle in short-selling is that the price of stocks has to go down in order for you to make money. Basically, you borrow shares today and sell them, then you buy the same stock in the future at a lower price and give them back to the sucker you borrowed them from. You pocket the difference as profit.
This is a really dumb idea. You have to be exactly right in your timing twice; once when you sell the stock and another when you buy it back. It is a setup that almost ensures an amateur with no insider information and a get-out-of-jail-free card will be perfectly out of sync with the markets, always selling low and buying high. Anyone who tries this needs a morbid sense of humor.
Those were dark days when the stock markets roared unceasingly higher while I stood on the sidelines waiting for the big correction that would make me rich. I prayed for a crash to prove myself savvy. I was filled with dread and loathing each day the DOW Industrials posted a gain. I convinced myself that every stock on the NASDAQ was overpriced. Bad news would come out in the morning and I would be filled with Joy. Today would surely be the day of reckoning! Then, the markets would open higher. The entire world was prospering except for me. It was the worst of times.
What I learned is that it is a horrible thing to put yourself in a position where you have to root against the greater good.
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From that experience, I now see the folly in our inalterable political affiliations. Our country is so hopelessly divided that, at any given moment, half of us are cheering against the U.S. We actually want bad things to happen under the other party's watch. Are we really scared of calamity in all things while the party we are not a part of is in charge? Or, are we hoping things fall apart just so our party can regain control of the government?
Look at it this way: would discovering that the former president of the United States was actually not a U.S.-born citizen have been a great thing for our nation? It would have created chaos like we have never seen. It would have meant our system of choosing a president had colossally failed. Confidence in our government would have collapsed. Markets would have tanked. Who the hell knows how we would have fixed that?
Similarly, with the current president, it would be terrible to discover that the Russians had the goods on him and, being compromised, he had colluded with them in tampering with our national election. Yes, if he did it, we need to know about it and take the proper actions to deal with it, but, it would be awful for our country, a total disaster. We should all be praying he didn't do it, instead of hoping for the worst. If we discover a smoking gun, it might mean the bullet is lodged in our nation's heart.
And still I find myself diving into the news each evening secretly hoping that they have finally found the smoking gun. What is the matter with me? It's like I am so angry with the way this country is headed that I am not thinking clearly, and half the country supports me in this insanity.
I don't see how we can possibly remain a great nation when only half of us believe we are. It's a Luke warm endorsement to the rest of the world, at best. I think it is time to get out of the Trump stock and quit trying to sell it short. I will be richer by investing in good issues and bet on them rising instead.
Roger Marolt believes apathy might be healthier than blind hatred. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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