Black Coffee: More Government Means Less Freedom, Yet the Nanny State Grows

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.

My post-Halloween report contains good news and bad news.

The good news: After a couple of slow years with respect to the number of trick-or-treaters knocking on our door, I’m pleased to say that we had a record turn out. I estimate we had a little over 120 kids.

As for the bad news: Since we had so many goblins, I’ve now got very little candy to munch on while watching my favorite TV shows every night. Dang it.

Oh well, maybe that’s a good thing.

Okay, off we go …

The Question of the Week

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Last Week’s Poll Results

Have you ever seen a ghost?

  • No (65%)
  • Yes (23%)
  • I’m not sure. (12%)

Almost 300 people participated in this week’s survey, and almost two-thirds of them say they’ve never seen a ghost. I can’t say I have either. However … I do have a couple of family members who swear they’ve seen one. And get this: They were both awakened at the same time in the middle of the night and saw the same apparition! (They were in the same room.) I believe them too, because they were completely freaked out. Spooky. Coincidentally, on that particular evening, I happened to be sleeping in a neighboring room. I’m just glad I didn’t see it!

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

From March 2009:

Evaluate Your Options Before Selling Your Gold – Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating that people should be selling their gold during these times of economic uncertainty, but, hey … if you’ve got to sell your yellow metal to keep the roof over your head or food in your belly, then it’s important to get the best price you can.

And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy …

Hull Financial Planning – Monkey Brain Needs a Watch

Afford Anything – After 30 Countries, I Realize I’ve Barely Traveled

Save Outside the Box – 5 Reasons Why Working for the Man Isn’t All That Bad

Budgeting In the Fun Stuff – Dee’s $2000/Month Budget Update: Month 1 Results

Boomer and Echo – Do Budgets Allow for Overspending?

Credits and Debits

Debit: Venezuela’s crumbling economy is in such dire straits that the government is on the verge of devaluing its currency for the second time in 2013. The bolivar has lost 70% of its value this year alone, thereby decimating the savings and purchasing   power of many of its citizens.

Debit: Currently, Venezuelans are suffering with annual inflation of 50% and widespread product shortages including toilet paper. Of course, the economically-illiterate officials in Caracas charged with maintaining their socialist revolution blame Venezuela’s businesses. Right. Obviously, Venezuela has a shortfall of mirrors too.

Debit: Come to think of it, so do the pols in Washington, DC. After all, they’re now disingenuously blaming the insurance companies for their broken Obamacare promises — even though they know it’s their self-imposed government regulations that have led to millions of people losing their healthcare plans.

Debit: Incredibly, some of the more arrogant Obamacare advocates tacitly admit that they think most Americans are too stupid to make their own insurance decisions. If you don’t believe me, just ask Congressman Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey) — who clearly thinks he’s smarter than his subjects … er, I mean constituents.

Credit: For their part, Al Jazeera — yes, that Al Jazeera — found an Obamacare navigator who still hasn’t signed-up a single client because all of the plans were, um, unaffordable. I bet Congressman Pallone would say they’re just too stupid to recognize a good deal when they see it.

Credit: How bad has the Obamacare roll-out been? Well, there are over 300 million people in the US — but only six of them enrolled for Obamacare on Day 1. At that rate it will take only 3196 years for the government to reach its goal of 7 million enrollees.

Credit: Needless to say, 3196 years is a long time. The good news is Congressman Pallone says that should be just enough time to fix the Obamacare website.

Debit: Did you see this? On Wednesday, the Fed announced that it would continue its quantitative easing (QE) program, pumping $85 billion into the economy every month until the economy shows real signs of improvement.

Credit: I know what you’re thinking; but you can’t argue that the economy is doing well just because Google’s stock price recently topped $1000 per share. On Friday, Google was selling for $1036 per share before it finally closed at $1027.

Debit: Of course, the Fed is trapped. If they taper now, interest rates could rise to dangerous levels, and the stock markets will most likely experience a tremendous sell-off. Then again, if they wait, the distortions will continue to be magnified and the ultimate consequences will be even worse.

Debit: By the way, since the debt ceiling was temporarily lifted until next February without any caps whatsoever, the US has been putting $375 billion on its credit card every week.

Credit: Thankfully, a majority those super-sized weekly deficits are a result of the deferred charges that the US had racked up since May of this year when the government was forced to operate under extraordinary measures to stay under the previous debt ceiling.

Debit: I wish I could say the money the US borrows is being put to good use but, for the most part, it’s not. For example, did you know the US will spend $22.2 billion this year on global warming? That’s nearly twice as much than the US spends on border security. Unbelievable.

Debit: Speaking of spending big money, since the recession started, the federal government has shelled out $252 billion in unemployment benefits. This is over and above the state unemployment benefits that people received.

Debit: Meanwhile, since 2008 the annual cost of the government food stamp program known as SNAP has more than doubled to $74 billion. Unfortunately, some people are selling those welfare benefits for cash on Craigslist. Yes, that’s illegal.

Debit: Needless to say, America’s biggest creditor, China, is starting to complain — loudly — about how the US is mismanaging its finances. That should put a scare into everyone. Perhaps the end of the US dollar’s reign as the world’s reserve currency is closer than we think.

Debit: Of course, the Chinese aren’t the only ones who are miffed with America. Believe it or not, the Saudis are too now. Yes, they’re one of our staunchest long-term allies; or should I say, used to be.

Debit: Hopefully, the Saudis get over it soon, because without them, the petrodollar paradigm that allows the US to run humongous deficits with few relatively adverse consequences would quickly disintegrate — and that would result in a sharply lower standard of living for America’s lower and middle classes.

Credit: Finally … In case you missed it, last month GM boosted the price of its full-sized 2014 pick-ups by $1500. Coincidentally, or not, that happens to be just enough money to pay for the $1500 rebate they’re offering on the same truck. Don’t you just love car dealers? Me either.

By the Numbers

Maybe the US needs bigger car rebates. The auto market in western industrialized countries is essentially saturated, but China is a different story:

79.2 million Worldwide demand for automobiles in 2012.

104.7 million Expected global demand for new vehicles in 2019.

15.8 million Cars and light trucks sold in China in 2012.

15.4 million Vehicles sold last year in the US.

12.1 million Cars and light trucks sold in Europe in 2012.

19% Percentage of the world’s autos that are currently sold in the US.

26% Percentage of the world auto market that will belong to China in 2019.

Source: Business Insider

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!

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And last, but not least…

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Top 25 Referrers for October

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. Deseret News
2. MSN
3. Kiplinger
4. Money Talks News
5. The Simple Dollar
6. Business Insider
7. Budgets Are Sexy
8. Wisebread
9. Boomer and Echo
10. Quest for $85,000
11. Mr. Money Mustache
12. Dream Cash True
13. Dollars and Roses
14. Rockstar Finance
15. Afford Anything
16. Save Outside the Box
17. Monevator
18. Frugal Village
19. Budgeting in the Fun Stuff
20. And Then We Saved
21. JoeTaxpayer
22. Money Funk
23. Money Crashers
24. Don’t Quit Your Day Job
25. Clark Howard

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:

Somebody calling themselves “Horrified” had this to say after reading my piece on 13 Yucky Halloween Treats Kids Hate:

“You sound like a spoiled brat to me. I’m guessing that you are what is labeled as ‘high maintenance’ by your significant other.”

Let me guess: You handed out Baby Ruths this year. Again.

I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.


    • 4

      Len Penzo says

      My apologies if I gave that impression, Sean.

      It’s easy for government officials to overspend because it has no incentive to cut costs; government can simply print the money it needs to pay for whatever it wants.

  1. 5

    Frugal pediatrician says

    We got 800+ trick o treaters this year. No candy left for my husband as well. We shut the lights off at 745pm when we ran out. By then most of the little ones have been by. Every year our street gets busier. I think because in our neighborhood the houses are close together.

    • 6

      Len Penzo says

      Wow!!! That has got to be a record, Doc! I know some people will disagree, but I think neighborhoods with lots of kids are a blessing.

  2. 7


    Thanks for the mention, Len! In Canada, Halloween is about finding a costume big enough to fit over your winter coat and snow pants.

    Enjoy your weekend!

  3. 8

    Marcia says

    We got zero trick or treaters. Well, sort of.

    We were out trick or treating with our kiddos, and didn’t get home until 7:30 pm. By then, there weren’t anymore kids to come around.

    We live a block past where the sidewalk ends, so we don’t get many and the ones we do get are the teenagers half a block up.

  4. 9


    One year we ran out of candy and I passed out spare change for a bit before shutting the lights off. One kid asked if we had spare change this year.

    That’s impressive, right? I was impressed.

    • 11

      Len Penzo says

      Of course, J! Everyone lucky enough to make the list gets a check.

      Here’s yours: ✔ 😉

      Seriously, though, J: Thank you for your support! I’ll do my best to return your hospitality! :-)

  5. 12

    Spedie says

    375 billion a week?? China and the Saudi’s starting to complain???

    I am now convinced the Barbarians have broken through the gate!


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