Black Coffee: Why Texas Doesn’t Mess with Taxes

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…

Well, the dang rat is back. We hear him almost every evening inside the wall behind our refrigerator.

The good news is he seems to be staying out of the attic and the storage area where he was previously wreaking havoc with my emergency stores.

I really am befuddled. I see no evidence of a new entrance point around my house.

Maybe I’m being paranoid now and just hearing things — but the Honeybee hears it too.

I don’t know. Maybe my house is haunted.

Okay, due to my compressed schedule this week, I have another espresso edition of Black Coffee for you. I’ll return with a bigger cup next week. Here we go …

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

From January 2010:

Drive-By Movie Review: The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 – After last week’s post where I included a brief review of the time-travel flick Looper, I received several emails from readers who shared their own take on that movie. Of course, I reminded them to check out an old series I used to have here on Len Penzo dot Com where I used to review movies with the Honeybee. I think we reviewed about 20 movies in all, but this was my favorite.

Credits and Debits

Credit: Hasbro is asking Monopoly fans to vote for their least favorite token. The losing piece will be banished forever more. Hopefully, the dog will stay out of the pound.

Credit: Coincidentally, I asked readers to vote for their favorite Monopoly token last September; almost 400 people participated. Approximately 80 of them chose the dog. On the other end of the spectrum, only six folks chose the cannon — and the wheelbarrow only had 13 fans.

Debit: If you’re like me, you got your first paycheck of the new year and it was noticeably lighter, thanks to the payroll tax hike that went into effect on New Year’s Day. For the average American making $50,000 annually, that amounts to $83 less each month. (But the government thanks you!)

Debit: And the paycheck damage will get even worse if the folks in charge in Washington, DC, get their way. They’re now looking to impose even more tax increases on Americans. Well, at least on the folks who are still working.

Debit: Unfortunately, higher taxes and more spending are de rigueur for the big government politicians who currently make the laws in Washington DC, not to mention death spiral states like California, Illinois and New York.

Credit: Meanwhile, legislators in Texas tried a different tack; they decided to cut spending while simultaneously expanding energy production. The end result was a booming economy and an $8.8 billion surplus in 2012. Best of all, they did it without raising taxes.

Debit: Compare that to the recent fiscal cliff “deal” that increases the National Debt by $4 trilliondespite $620 billion in tax increases. Too bad the only economic “boom” resulting from that financial folly will be the eventual implosion of the US dollar.

Debit: My latest paycheck also took another big financial blow from increased health insurance premiums. Again. As many people predicted, Obamacare continues to be the cause of rising rates — even though we were told it wouldn’t. I know.

Credit: The truth is, you can’t subsidize healthcare for millions of uninsured people — some of them with preexisting conditions — and expect to magically lower healthcare costs for everyone else.

Debit: Still, many folks so badly want to believe Obamacare will result in a government-managed healthcare system that’s better and cheaper than the private sector one we used to have. Ain’t gonna happen. And closing your eyes and wishing will never be enough to make it so. Just sayin’.

Credit: On a side note, how can we force insurance companies to accept folks with preexisting conditions, and expect them to stay in business? After all, I can’t buy home owner’s insurance after my house catches fire. Well … not yet. But give our pandering politicians a little time.

Debit: Did you see this? US Airways put out requisitions for 450 stewardesses flight attendants and they received more than 16,500 job applications. Who says the unemployment picture is improving?

Debit: If you think that’s something, last month Delta Airlines received 22,000 applications for 300 stewardess flight attendant positions. Incredible, isn’t it? And you thought it was tough becoming a member of the mile-high club.

Credit: Finally … Last week in Brisbane, Australia, a pair of burrowing would-be gold thieves got the surprise of their lives when they misjudged the location of the jewelry store they were targeting and accidentally broke their way inside a neighboring Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Credit: I guess you could say that, as a result of their blunder, the robbers ended up absconding with a sackful of … the wrong nuggets.

The Question of the Week

Would you consider buying an electric car for your next vehicle?

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By the Numbers

Speaking of Monopoly tokens, here are a few quick facts on the Monopoly board game:

1935 Year that Monopoly was made popular by Parker Brothers. The original version of the game is based on properties in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

500 Millions of people who have played the game at least once.

20 Number of Monopoly tokens that have been included in the game over the years. Discontinued pieces include a lantern, a purse, and a rocking horse.

$25,000 Cost of the most expensive Monopoly game ever created. It was made by London gift company Alfred Dunhill and included gold and silver hotels and houses.

1   Misspelled properties on the Monopoly board. Apparently, there is no “Marvin Gardens” in Atlantic City — but there is an area known as “Marven Gardens.” Whatever.

2 Number of specially engineered Monopoly sets created by Parker Brothers for space flights.

1680 Official record, in hours, for the longest game of Monopoly ever played. That’s equivalent to 70 consecutive days. (Although I can’t prove it, I swear I’ve played longer Monopoly games than that. At least they seemed like it.)

Sources: Yahoo!; Christian Science Monitor

Other Useless News

Here are the top — and bottom — five states in terms of the average number of pages viewed per visit here at Len Penzo dot Com over the past 30 days:

1. Delaware (2.16 pages/visit)
2. New Mexico (1.99)
3. Arizona (1.94)
4. North Dakota (1.87)
5. Idaho (1.86)

46. Florida (1.55)
47. Georgia (1.54)
48. New York (1.50)
49. Wyoming (1.43)
50. Rhode Island (1.39)

Whether you happen to enjoy what you’re reading (like my friends in Delaware) — or not (ahem, Rhode Island) — please don’t forget to:

1. Click on that “Like” button in the sidebar to your right and become a fan of Len Penzo dot Com on Facebook!

2. Make sure you follow me on Twitter!

And last, but not least…

3. Don’t forget to subscribe to my RSS feed too! Thank you. :-)

Letters, I Get Letters

Every week I feature the most interesting question or comment — assuming I get one, that is. And folks who are lucky enough to have the only question in the mailbag get their letter highlighted here whether it’s interesting or not! You can reach out to me at:

Timothy took issue with last week’s post explaining how to avoid paying a mandatory gratuity for poor service:

Maybe you should try (waiting tables) for a year and see if you can pay your bills. After which you might learn empathy and compassion to those serving you.

Or maybe you could show a little compassion and empathy for engineers like me who had to work our butts off in college — for free — while the waiters were partying like rock stars.

I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.


    • 3

      Volfram says

      Send some people here to Colorado. We need you to scare off all the Californians.

      (not like you, Len, the ones who moved away from California to get away from the pollution and high cost of living, then handle it by driving SUVs everywhere and voting up taxes)

  1. 4

    sewingirl says

    Sorry Timothy, I can feel empathy and compassion for anyone doing a tough job, but bad service is bad service. I have no problem leaving no tip for terrible service, and have told more than one server exactly what went wrong. Nicely, I hope.

  2. 5


    Re: your comment about Obamacare – Coming from the UK and an Insurance background, I have to say, Insurance is the worst way to run any kind of health service. Realistically, a health service is only going to fulfil it’s mandate properly if it isn;t shackled by the need to make a profit.
    At the moment it seems while the US is trying to put into place a decent service that looks after all it’s citizens, the UK is intent on destroying it’s NHS, despite it’s world leading achievemnets and credentials.

    • 6

      Len Penzo says

      Matt, I’ll argue that the drive for profit is directly responsible for the great majority of healthcare advances over the past 100 years.

      The US has excellent service. Before Obamacare, 87% of people in the US claimed to be quite happy with the existing system. I suspect in 10 years, that will no longer be the case.

      The trouble is, healthcare, like anything else, is subject to supply and demand. Government interference in the system, only serves to create market distortions that result in poorer quality service and longer wait times for everyone but the wealthiest individuals who can afford healthcare at any price.

  3. 7

    Olivia says

    Matt- I’ve know people in the UK and though the care may work for the young, there are cut off ages for services. Here in the states we’re used to heart surgeries after the age of 55. So our system would look vastly different and cost much much more to operate than your own.

    Len- As far as pre-existing conditions. I get migraines. The only private insurer that would take me charges a bundle and covers NOTHING. Being lumped together with diabetics, smokers, drinkers, and psychotics, is really a bummer. I don’t know what the solution is. But somehow a monthly hormone related affliction should not force us into a bread line.

    • 8

      Len Penzo says

      Yes, that is a bummer, Olivia. I’m sorry to hear about your migraines. I have a couple of friends who also suffer from them.

      On a side note: have you looked into acupuncture? (I say this because my sister is an acupuncturist and I remember her saying she has had great success treating her patients suffering from migraines, so that may be worth a try.)

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