Black Coffee: My Favorite Blogs, Money News & Opinions #38 (America on the Brink Edition)

It’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy a little joe…

Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week

Welcome to another rousing edition of Black Coffee, your off-beat weekly round-up of what’s been going on in the world of money and personal finance. Here’s what caught my attention over the past week…

Debt Free Adventure – We open up this edition of Black Coffee with Matt from Debt Free Adventure who sold his motorcycle on Craig’s List for $250!  YES!  Awesome!  What’s that, Matt?  If you were a bit more patient you could have got $500?  Okay, so you’re not Ron Popeil.  After all, a motorcycle is trickier to sell than a Chop-o-Matic.  Lucky for us, Matt shares some tips on how to make sure you get top dollar when selling your stuff.

Enemy of Debt – But wait, there’s more!  Speaking of big mistakes, Brad shares a guest post from Dena who happens to be the proprietor of Evolution You.  No, it’s not a mistake that Brad shared her post.  What I mean to say is that Dena wrote an article for Brad where she tells us about a big mistake she made.  It turns out she got herself $60,000 in debt before she finished college.   The good news is Dena has finally started to turn things around.  This is a great story on the ease with which one can get into debt if they’re not careful.

The Debt Hawk – Meanwhile, for those of you looking for concrete ways to effectively retire your credit card debt, the Hawk has put together an excellent how-to guide that will help you do exactly that.

Bible Money Matters – Hey!  Peter has a brand new hobby that you might want to try: Entering online contests.  Lots of ‘em.  He says, “In my free time I like to enter online contests – usually ones found on smaller sites and blogs.  Instead of having odds of 300 million to 1, your odds are often closer to anywhere from 200:1, down to 50:1.” Or you could have entered the last lame contest I sponsored on my blog and you could have had even odds or better – assuming both my regular readers not named Mom or Dad decided to participate.  Anyway, Peter shows you how to find all these contests easily.

Consumerism Commentary -   Flexo (no, not my ex college-girlfriend – the male blogger) shared how he saves money when washing his clothes.  I won’t give it away, but you just know it has something to do with laundry detergent.  As I told Flexo, to save money I make my own homemade laundry detergent from maple syrup and lard.  I can’t remember if I got that recipe from Trent at the Simple Dollar or Matt at Debt Free Adventure, but who cares?   I’m saving tons of money!   Although my clothes do smell like pancakes now.

Financial Highway – Meanwhile, trillionaire blogger Miranda Marquit wrote a guest post for Ray over at Money Highway regarding five financial preparedness moves you should make in your twenties.  In fact, rumor has it that Miranda wrote this post while vacationing on her very own little island – Sicily.  Anyway, one financial move for twentysomethings that’s surprisingly NOT on the list: Establishing and maintaining an emergency Friday Night Bar fund of at least $100.  You can never be too safe you know.

Monevator – My favorite blogger from across the pond, the Investor, just wrote an excellent piece where he tries to explain why we’re all still poor slobs – well, everybody except for Mr. Moneybags and Miranda.  Says the Investor: “Most people don’t actually want to be rich.”   While you are vehemently nodding your head in a state of blissful denial, and thinking to yourself that this Investor guy is a pretty smart chap, be forewarned that he also analyzes why that is so.  You’re a lazy SOB, that’s why.  The truth hurts, doesn’t it?  I bet a lot of you aren’t nodding your head now.  (Although I know I still am.)

The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts You May Have Missed

From May 2009:

9 Personal Finance Lessons I Learned from Watching The Simpsons -  With over 440 episodes of The Simpsons out there it really should not be too surprising to learn that, over time, I have picked up scattered bits of personal finance advice that I have never forgotten.  This post shares nine pearls of personal finance wisdom that I’ve collected over the past twenty years from the vast sea that is The Simpsons catalog.

Credits and Debits

Debit: Damn the torpedoes! With Congress thumbing its collective nose at the majority of Americans who are against the current version of Obamacare, House Democrats are careening toward a decisive health care vote this weekend.

Debit: The current health care bill is estimated by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to cost $940 billion over the next 10 years.  However, those numbers are coming under sharp attack for wild assumptions that, in many cases, strain credulity.  For example, savings over time that are assumed but won’t happen, rosy scenarios about cost reductions and tax revenues, and other accounting tricks.   “But, Len, the CBO is non-partisan!” Yes.  But it is important to note that the CBO is mandated to use the assumptions given by the bill sponsors – regardless of their veracity.

Debit: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) notes that the Obamacare bill “expands entitlement spending by roughly $1 trillion; it hits the American people with over half-a-trillion in tax hikes; it uses Medicare as a piggy bank with over half-a-trillion in Medicare cuts to create a new entitlement; and includes a number of egregious gimmicks that hide the true cost of the bill. When you expose the smoke and mirrors and look at the reality of this legislation, it is clear that this bill will not reduce deficits and will not control costs.”

Debit: Michael Cannon of the conservative Cato Institute says a more realistic estimate of the Obamacare bill is in the neighborhood of $2.5 trillion over 10 years.

Debit: Let’s forget for a moment that our country is less than three days away from passing another socialist entitlement program that will cost trillions of dollars and be virtually impossible to repeal once passed – assuming it’s found to be Constitutional.  The United States is still on the hook for over $105 trillion in Social Security, Medicare and Medicare prescription drugs.  That money, which amounts to seven times our GDP, is not counted in our National Debt.  Has anybody out there thought about how we are going to pay for all of this? The numbers are virtually insurmountable, and the sad truth is that it’s unlikely we will ever pay it back without completely destroying our economy and standard of living.

Credit:I’m going to have all the negotiations around a big table. We’ll have doctors and nurses and hospital administrators. Insurance companies, drug companies, they’ll get a seat at the table, they just won’t be able to buy every chair.  But what we will do is, we’ll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies. And so, that approach, I think is what is going to allow people to stay involved in this process.”  – Barack Obama on August 21, 2008 at a town hall meeting in Chester, Virginia.  

Debit: I guess all those angry town hall meetings put that promise out to pasture didn’t they, Mr. President?

Credit: I wish we knew what exactly was in the latest 2,700 page bill – but as of Thursday it still wasn’t being made available for review by the American people.  At least the Dems are giving us 72 hours to review it before the vote.  As far as Michael Ramirez is concerned, the whole process is something straight out of Wonderland.

Credit: The November mid-term elections are a little more than seven months away.

Debit: Unfortunately, that may be too late to stop the damage that will be soon be wrought upon this country if the Obamacare bill passes this weekend.

By the Numbers:

The United States is the biggest debtor nation on earth.  Here’s a breakdown on some of the numbers from US Debt

67,866 The number of miles a stack of one trillion $1 bills would stretch into the sky.

$12.6 trillion The US National Debt.

$114,000 The amount each American taxpayer would have to come up with to retire the debt.

$1.5 trillion The budget deficit – the difference between the total money spent this year and the revenues taken in by the IRS.

$191 billion The annual interest on the current debt.

$107 trillion The cost of unfunded liabilities (Medicare, Social Security, Medicare prescription drug entitlements).  These aren’t included in the National Debt calculations.

$350,000 The approximate current cost per taxpayer to pay off those unfunded liabilities.

Letters, I Get Letters

No letters this week, but if you have a question you’d like to ask, or a comment you’d like to make regarding some of my irritating opinions, please feel free to drop me an e-mail at:

I’ll feature the most interesting question or comment I get each week here on Black Coffee – assuming I get one, that is.

If you’re lucky enough to be the only question in the mail bag I’ll highlight your letter, whether it’s interesting or not. ;-)

Other Useless News

Check this out!  So far for the month of March, these are the Top 10 States whose visitors spend the most time here on a per-visit basis at Len Penzo dot Com

1. New Mexico (8 minutes 2 seconds)
2. New Hampshire (5:44)
3. Montana (5:20)
4. North Dakota (5:08)
5. Nebraska (4:59)
6. Connecticut (4:44)
6. Arizona (4:44)
8. New Jersey (4:26)
9. Alaska (3:51)
10. Georgia (3:32)

I’m not sure if those of you in New Mexico really like what I’m writing, or you’re just slow readers, but either way – thank you. In fact, thank you to everybody who spends a little time here each week! I really appreciate it – no matter what state or country you come from.  Even you folks from Alabama who, at all of 56 seconds, have spent the least time here every you’ve visited me this month.

As a reminder, if you happen to enjoy what you’re reading – or not – please feel free to follow me on Twitter. And don’t forget to subscribe to my RSS feed too! :-)

Carnival News

This week I had articles featured at the following carnivals:

- None this week. However…

I did host the 45th Carnival of Money Stories - The Sex, Lies and Videotape Edition)

In that carnival I held a contest where I shared five stories about me. The trick was to determine which one was a complete fabrication. Even though the contest is over, if you didn’t catch the carnival and you still want to try and figure it out for yourself, then click on the link above and then come back here for the answer.

Most people felt I was lying in story number five, where I said I hadn’t had hiccups in 38 years. That, however, is actually a true story. The fib was actually story number four. Although it would be cool to get a bit-part in Million Dollar Baby and have lunch with Clint Eastwood,that never actually happened.

Congratulations to Marnie, who was one of only two people to correctly guess that I was up a tree when I told that cornball tale!   Marnie, you’ve won the personal finance book Get Financially Naked: How to Talk Money with Your Honey.

That’s right, only two people.  I told you the odds of winning a contest on this blog were easy.

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