Black Coffee: ‘Generic Headline’ (Due to Government Shut Down)

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.

Don’t let my headline fool you. Unlike the US federal government, there is no shut down here at Len Penzo dot Com.

Anyway, the latest batch of current events has given me a lot to cover today, so let’s get right to it …

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

From May 2009:

Save Big Money by Using Grocery Auctions – In these times of economic uncertainty, most people are looking to cut costs wherever possible — some are even visiting local auction houses for great deals on groceries. Yes, groceries.

And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy …

Budgets Are Sexy – What I Learned About Money Growing Up in the USSR

The Broke Millennial – Watching TV Without Cable

The Empowered Dollar – How I Paid Off $34,579 in Less than Four Years

Escaping Dodge – Ten Things Your Closet Is Trying to Tell You

The Frugal Farmer – Are You Afraid to be Debt Free?

Credits and Debits

Credit: Despite a panoply of scare tactics that the Big Government pols were pushing, the earth didn’t stop spinning on its axis after the federal government was forced to shut down this week. In fact, for 99.999% of Americans, life goes on — just as it always has.

Debit: Well … that is, unless you were planning to visit the Grand Canyon, or open-air monuments around the capital. For example, the privately-funded WWII Memorial has been inexplicably surrounded by reinforced barricades erected by the National Park Service to keep people from visiting it.

Debit: The National Park Service doesn’t usually work at the World War II Memorial — nor should they. Besides, if the feds feel they can’t keep a simple park memorial open without federal employees on-site 24/7, then government waste is even worse than I thought.

Debit: On a related note, did you see this? The US Federal Bureau of Land Management spent $98,670 on an outhouse. I know. That kind of gives new meaning to the term “government waste,” doesn’t it?

Credit: I guess there are some benefits to the shut down. Ninety-one percent of the Internal Revenue Service is now on furlough.

Debit: Maybe I shouldn’t joke about that. Especially since the IRS is apparently now being used as a political weapon. Renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson is the latest in a long line of critics to reveal he was audited after publicly railing against Big Government policies.

Debit: Most people fail to realize there’s an inverse relationship between personal freedom and Big Government. In fact, like it or not, our liberty is diminished in direct proportion to government growth. Sadly, more and more Americans are willing to sacrifice their freedom for that false sense of security.

Debit: More false security: Police departments all across America — including   here, here, and here — have been buying up surplus armored personnel carriers from the military. Even the campus police at Ohio State University bought one. I guess college kids are a lot rowdier than they used to be.

Debit: But seriously, folks, can anybody give me a good reason why civilian police departments in the US need tactical military vehicles? Very strange.

Debit: In other news, despite three years of planning and development, Obamacare exchanges everywhere rolled out with countless glitches. That’s hard to believe. Especially since California’s snake-bitten exchange cost a gob-smacking $313 million to develop.

Credit: Many commercial company websites successfully handle large traffic volumes, so why all the problems? Heck, for $313 million California could’ve arguably built — and launched — a telecom satellite. Yes, a real one. That actually worked.

Credit: Even so, many folks continue to believe that Obamacare will miraculously — despite mountains of endless red tape and government “oversight” — somehow, some way, make healthcare less expensive for almost everyone. Eventually. Right.

Debit: Frustrated individuals trying to sign up this week were told to call the Obamacare hotline, 1-800-318-2596. Curiously, after accounting for the lack of a letter assigned to the numeral 1, that phone number spells out 1-800-F UCKYO. Maybe that’s just an unfortunate coincidence. Or not.

Debit: Despite all of the glitches, some people eventually got through — and then suffered sticker shock. One young healthy student was forced to buy Obamacare insurance at $175 per month, even though, before the law took effect, he could have received minimum coverage for just $44 per month from eHealthInsurance.

Debit: Oh, and by the way, those monthly Obamacare premiums don’t take into account the average annual deductible, which can be as high as $6,350 per individual. The New York Daily News found Obamacare deductibles to be more than twice the average deductibles for employer-sponsored coverage — at least for those who still have it.

Credit: Of course, if enough young people wisely do a cost-benefit analysis and choose to opt out, Obamacare premiums will skyrocket to unimaginable heights. In fact, it’s why experts predict a premium “death spiral” will eventually collapse the system.

Debit: Perhaps that helps explain why the government is now offering some individuals, as a sign-up incentive, an Obamacare smart phone that includes unlimited minutes, unlimited texting, and 1.2 gigabytes of data — plus tech support. So the Big Government “gravy train” rolls on. For now.

Debit: Speaking of smart phones … For his part, the President tried to liken all of Obamacare’s flaws and glitches to the roll out of the  Apple iPhone. “I don’t remember anybody suggesting Apple should stop selling iPhones if they (didn’t work),” he said. No, he really did.

Credit: What the President fails to understand is that, unlike his signature health insurance, no American is forced to buy an iPhone. At least not yet.

By the Numbers

Here’s an estimate of the percentage of civilian federal workers for several government agencies deemed to be “non-essential” and subject to furlough:

4% Veteran’s Affairs (14,224 people furloughed)

50% Department of Defense (400,000)

74% Executive Office of the President (1265)

82% Department of Labor (13,350)

87% Department of Commerce (40,234)

91% The Internal Revenue Service (85,690)

93% Environmental Protection Agency (15,136)

94% Department of Education (3983)

95% Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (2057)

96% Health and Urban Development (8360)

97% Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (1412)

98% Federal Communications Commission (1716)

99% National Labor Relations Board (1600)

Source: The Wall Street Journal

The Question of the Week

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Last Week’s Poll Results

If you had a chance to live on a corner lot, would you?

  • No (61%)
  • Yes (25%)
  • I’m not sure. (14%)

More than 200 people chimed in this week, and a substantial majority agrees with me — the few benefits that a corner lot provide generally aren’t worth the hassles a homeowner must endure in exchange for those perks.

Other Useless News

Programming note: Unlike most blogs, I’m always open for the weekend here at Len Penzo dot Com. There’s a fresh new article waiting for you every Saturday afternoon. At least there should be. If not, somebody call 9-1-1.

Hey! If you happen to enjoy what you’re reading — or not — 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. :-)

Top 25 Referrers for September

It’s the first weekend of the month, which means it’s time once again to thank the top 25 referring websites to Len Penzo dot Com.

1. MSN
2. Business Insider
3. Kiplinger
4. Money Talks News
5. Wisebread
6. The Simple Dollar
7. Deseret News
8. Life Hacker
9. Mr. Money Mustache
10. Afford Anything
11. Budgets Are Sexy
12. Smart Asset
13. And Then We Saved
14. Save Outside the Box
15. Budgeting in the Fun Stuff
16. Don’t Quit Your Day Job
17. JoeTaxpayer
18. Clark Howard
19. Consumerism Commentary
20. Monevator
21. Stacking Benjamins
22. Street Smart Finance
23. Money Crashers
24. Control Your Cash
25. Cash Cow Couple

Thank you to everyone who refers their readers to this little ol’ blog! It’s much appreciated.

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:

After reading about the paper towel experiment I conducted to figure out which brand was superior, “The Woe” sent me this follow-up question regarding his coffee maker:

Can I clean my Bun with Kirkland?

Of course! Don’t you know clean Buns are happy Buns?

I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.


  1. 3


    Hi Len,

    I really appreciate the mention in today’s post. I just discovered your site and it looks like an amazing resource. Your story is rare, so many of us are slaves to debt before we realize the wisdom of living debt free and on less than we earn.

    Can’t wait to dig in and learn more about you!

  2. 5


    Wouldn’t it be less expensive just to expand Medicare and Medicaid to everyone?

    Works here in Canada. Medical care is covered. Drugs, dental, eye glasses, massages, etc are not covered but many people have separate benefits through their work to cover these items.

  3. 9

    Mrs H says

    I’m in my 30’s and so many of my colleagues don’t see what you just mentioned. I don’t know what it will take before people get it. It’s so frustrating. In order to save my sanity, I just go on doing what I normally do; keep debt down, save money, read your blog etc…I really pity those who think big govt is the answer–by then, it might be too late to dig themselves out of their hole.

    • 10

      Len Penzo says

      By then, it may be too late for the nation, Mrs. H.

      All you can do is spread the word about the dangers of Big Government whenever you have the opportunity! For parents, the best place to start is with your own children. I try to teach mine about the Constitution, the virtues of limited government, and the importance of self-reliance, and individual liberty at the dinner table on a regular basis. It’s so important because most public schools are teaching our kids the exact opposite.

  4. 11

    Josh says

    You wrote two excellent articles on the coming economic collapse and you can’t figure out why police departments all over the country are buying armoured vehicles?
    The coming collapse will bring desperate people who will erupt in mass violence.
    The coming crash will bring a desperate gov’t trying to control it’s citizens. Thousands of IMRAP’s will help.

    • 12

      Len Penzo says

      I absolutely get it, Josh.

      The question I posed was rhetorical and my comment at the end was sarcastic. Sometimes sarcasm doesn’t translate well via the Internet. :-)

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