It’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy a little joe…
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…
Back in the late 20th century, life was pretty dreary. At least it was when I was a kid back in the 70s.
For example, back then there were only seven or eight television channels.
Computers were as big as a Mack truck and had less processing power than today’s coffee makers.
If that ain’t bad enough, when we talked on a phone we had to stay tethered to something us old timers call “a cord.” (Look that word up in an unabridged dictionary, kids.)
I’m not finished.
When we played team sports, only the kids from the team that actually finished the season in first place got trophies. It’s not like today when everybody gets a trophy just for participating.
Oh, and speaking of sports, there was no such thing as ESPN. Or 24-hour news channels like CNN. Worst of all, the Weather Channel was years away from becoming reality.
If we wanted to know if it would rain or shine the next day, we had to wait for the 5 o’clock news. For the wrong answer. (Well, the 21st century hasn’t improved much in that regard.)
And if you wanted a five-day forecast, your only option was to go to a tarot card reader who would divine the answer from some soggy leaves at the bottom of a tea cup. Yes, life sucked back then.
Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week
Budgeting In the Fun Stuff – Fit In a Fun Friday – Drive In Movie Theaters. One small pleasure that we did have back then that is almost impossible to find today is the drive-in movie theater. As I told Mrs. BFS, if you were in high school and had a date, they were a decent place to have a little, um, alone time. They were also great if you were a little kid because, if the movie sucked, you could go hang with your friends at the playground next to the snack bar. Of course, the big drawback was that if there was a full moon out (and I’m not talking about the kids in the car having some, um, alone time), it did make the screen a bit harder to see.
Funny About Money – Tiny Houses of Yesteryear. Another bane of the recent past was the 1250 square-foot, three-bed two-bath house. How did we ever manage to squeeze ourselves into such small living quarters? What’s really scary is that was an improvement over the homes of the early 20th century which, as Funny shows us, were even smaller than that.
Money Obedience – You Don’t Save Money Making Your Own Jam. Back in the late 20th century a lot more people made their own jam too. Unfortunately they just didn’t realize they were wasting their money.
…And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy:
Steadfast Finances - Should We Be Hoping for Deflation? Next week from Matt: Should we be hoping for a worldwide small pox pandemic?
Monevator - The Lost Decade: Why We’re Not Japan. Speaking of deflation…
CashMoneyLife – Compound Interest Can Be Your Friend [Infographic].
Hope to Prosper – Economic Trends Affecting America.
Oblivious Investor – Retirement Savings vs. Income Growth.
Sweating the Big Stuff – Response: How Long Do You Have to Act Poor Until You’re Rich? Wait. Is this a trick question?
Out of Your Rut – Five Unconventional Ways to Find A Job.
Wealth Pilgrim – Green Mutual Funds.
Live Richly – Stranger In His Own Land, Part 3. The subject of Jen’s intriguing interview continues to fascinate me – for all the wrong reasons.
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From July 2009:
Evaluating the Cost of Extreme Frugality – Roadkill for dinner? Why would anybody choose such a punitive lifestyle? Oh, I have a few ideas.
Credits and Debits
Debit: Social Security will be paying out more in benefits than it receives in revenues for the first time since it was overhauled back in 1983. Yep. Its in the red.
Credit: According to the Washington Times, the good news is the trust fund won’t be completely depleted until 2025 or so.
Debit: Unfortunately for me, that’s quite a few years short of when I can start claiming benefits.
Credit: But let’s give credit where credit is due. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner also gave the American people some really good news based upon the 2010 Medicare Trustees Report: thanks to tax hikes and “lower expenditures” due to the implementation of Obamacare, the Hospital Insurance trust fund will be in the black for an additional 12 years until 2029. Hooray!
Credit: Maybe Obamacare really is a miracle elixir. Maybe President Obama really is smarter than three out of every five Americans who insisted the privately-run healthcare system didn’t need fixing.
Credit: Maybe the 80% of Americans who were happy with their healthcare before B.O. started his crusade for socialized medicine just didn’t realize how miserable they really were.
Debit: Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) doesn’t think so. Coburn, who also happens to be a medical doctor, did what Mr. Geithner wouldn’t dare do – he gave the trustees’ report the rubber glove treatment. He probed the report and discovered that, “The trustees’ caveats effectively undermine proponents’ optimism about claims of extended medicare solvency.” That is a nice way of saying that the assumptions and financial projections used to justify the added surplus are full of fecal material.
Debit: Coburn’s probe uncovered six caveats form the report you won’t hear from Obamacare proponents. Here’s just one: “The financial projections shown in this report for Medicare do not represent a reasonable expectation for actual program operations in either the short range (as a result of the unsustainable reductions in physician payment rates) or the long range (because of the strong likelihood that the statutory reductions in price updates for most categories of Medicare provider services will not be viable).”
Debit: Another caveat stated that while Obamacare “makes important changes to the Medicare program and substantially improves its financial outlook, there is a strong likelihood that certain of these changes will not be viable in the long range. Specifically, the annual price updates for most categories of non-physician health services will be adjusted downward each year by the growth in economy-wide productivity. The best available evidence indicates that most health care providers cannot improve their productivity to this degree—or even approach such a level—as a result of the labor-intensive nature of these services.” In other words, the projections are pure bull manure.
Debit: Despite the $940 billion fantasy that Obamacare proponents are trying to promote, most people believe the real cost over 10 years will be closer to $3 trillion. That means the government, between 2014 and 2020 when Obamacare is in full effect, will be paying $100,000 per person to cover the healthcare costs for an estimated 30 million uninsured. That’s roughly $16,000 per person per year. For an uninsured family of four, that’s $64,000. Per year. How much do you pay for your insurance each year?
Debit: Surely our old private healthcare system wasn’t that bad, was it? Unless we throw everybody who voted for this bill out of Congress in November, we’re soon going to find out.
Credit: Here’s a proposal for you: if we are going to spend that money, let’s preserve our old private healthcare system and just give the darn money directly to the uninsured folks to do with as they please. Not only will it make the redistribution-of-wealth socialists currently in Congress happy, but it will also keep our government from ruining what was the best healthcare system in the world.
By the Numbers
A few numbers to ponder for those of you hoping to see Obamacare eventually repealed:
71 The percentage of voters in Missouri who voted for Proposition C, aimed at protecting Missouri residents from the Obamacare mandate that will force individuals to purchase health insurance policies approved by the government, or pay a penalty.
42 The number of states that have similar anti-Obamacare initiatives in various stages of work.
34 The number of states required to call a constitutional convention. Many folks believe a constitutional convention is the best, if not only, way to ultimately overturn Obamacare. Others do not.
32 At the end of 2009, the number of states that had officially submitted an application for a constitutional convention to Congress.
1 The number of states that have submitted an application so far in 2010. (Florida.)
2 The number of states that recently rescinded their applications. (South Dakota and New Hampshire.)
15 The number of states that have rescinded their applications for a constitutional convention over the past 15 years. (I know. Are you as confused as I am yet?)
Other Useless News – Another Record Traffic Day at Len Penzo dot Com!
On Friday I had another record day here at Len Penzo dot Com. Hooray! A good chunk of those page views were thanks to my brown bag sandwich survey being picked up by MSN and then having the good fortune to see it get promoted to their “Must See” tab on the front page. As of 8 pm, there were already over 10,000 page views. If you are a new reader, welcome aboard! And thank you to everybody else who continues to visit my little ol’ blog on a regular basis.
In other useless news, my readership numbers over the past 30 days for the world’s five remaining communist countries are as bad as Friday’s record numbers were good. Check these stats out, courtesy of Google Analytics:
1. Vietnam (9 total visits: Hanoi 6; Ho Chi Minh 2; Da Nang 1)
2. China (8: Putian 4; Beijing 3; Nanning 1)
3. Cuba (1: Guantanamo – not sure which side of the fence though)
4. Laos (0)
5. North Korea (0 – Not even Kim Jong Il)
The China numbers are particularly discouraging. There are over 1.3 billion people living in China. I got eight of them to stop by in July.
Assuming you haven’t been dragged from your beds in the middle of the night by your respective People’s Party officials, I’d like to thank all 18 brave people for taking a big risk and reading my blog. I really appreciate it.
Oh yes, and here’s another friendly reminder for ya: if you happen to enjoy what you’re reading – or not – please make sure you follow me on Twitter. And, if you’ll be so kind, don’t forget to subscribe to my RSS feed too!
Letters, I Get Letters
Salesh dropped me a line to say, among other things:
“Hi Len, I was wondering how come you don’t have any contests or giveaways like a lot of other bloggers?“
Well, Salesh, it’s really quite simple. Contests and giveaways are conducted by legitimate and respectable blogs.
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: Len@LenPenzo.com
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.
This week I had articles featured at the following carnivals:
The Carnival of Personal Finance @ The Ultimate Money Blog (Editor’s Pick – Hooray!)
The Yakezie Carnival @ Not Made of Money