The Persistent Problems of Presidential Elections

The election is over. I am left with two very contradictory feelings.

First is one of appreciation — every four years we peacefully replace our government.

I remember my parents in the late 1970s discussing Soviet politics at our house with their close friend. Their friend said something anti-Soviet. I vividly recall the fear in my mother’s eyes when she realized I had overheard that part of the conversation.

Views that were contrary to “politics of the party” were not tolerated. If I repeated in kindergarten what I had just heard, my teacher could report it to authorities and my parents (not me) would get in trouble.

A six-year-old kid could have only heard this sort of anti-Soviet talk at home: TV, radio, and newspapers were a pro-Soviet propaganda machine. My parents would not have been sent to the gulag, but they could have lost their jobs. If this sounds farfetched, my father’s best friend, a colleague and professor at Murmansk Marine Academy, was fired for possession of anti-Soviet propaganda — a copy of Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. It took him years to get another job, and it was almost two decades later, when the Soviet Union fell apart, that he was finally able to get a decent teaching job.

We in America tend to take our democratic elections for granted and underappreciate the fact that we can openly express our views. But there is also the other, new feeling: disgust. Yes, disgust. There is something deeply wrong with the U.S. election process. Between the presidential candidates and the congressional races, billions of dollars were spent (wasted) on the election. To spend that kind of money, first you have to raise it. Politicians sell their souls and beliefs to whomever will give them the most money.

And here is the sad truth: If you don’t raise money, the other guy will, and then he can outspend you. He can slaughter you, as his lies will be amplified louder through TV and radio ads, and the victory will be his. As I am writing this, I am realizing that allowing politicians to spend unlimited amounts of money on campaigns is not unlike allowing steroids in sports — even the strongest athlete will lose to a weaker opponent who is pumped on steroids. 

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Vitaliy Katsenelson

I am the CEO at IMA, which is anything but your average investment firm. (Why? Get our company brochure here, or simply visit our website).

In a brief moment of senility, Forbes magazine called me “the new Benjamin Graham.”

I’ve written two books on investing, which were published by John Wiley & Sons and have been translated into eight languages. (I’m working on a third - you can read a chapter from it, titled “The 6 Commandments of Value Investing” here).

And if you prefer listening, audio versions of my articles are published weekly at investor.fm.

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