Black Coffee: The DMV Experience -- Coming Soon to a Hospital Near You

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.

I’m working this weekend, so it’s time for another espresso edition of Black Coffee.

So let’s get right to it …

The Question of the Week

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Last Week’s Poll Results

Bitcoin: Is it a speculative fad, or a smart investment?

  • Speculative fad (40%)
  • What the heck is a “bitcoin”? (32%)
  • The jury is still out. (26%)
  • Smart investment (2%)

More than 200 people participated in this week’s survey, and 98% of my readers believe the crypto-currency is anything but a smart investment. I’m in the “jury is still out” camp. That being said, I do appreciate what the creators have done — try to create a medium of exchange that can’t be debased, unlike most, if not all, of the the world’s fiat currencies.

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

From July 2009:

Bernie Madoff Starts His 150-Year Sentence – This is the shortest article I’ve ever posted on Len Penzo dot Com. Yes, it’s even shorter than my 100-word posts. In fact, it’s shorter than this description.

Credits and Debits

Credit: The US economy created 204,000 new jobs in November, which helped send the unemployment rate to a five-year low of 7%. Since August, the number of new jobs created each month has surpassed the total required to keep up with population increases. Hooray!

Credit: Hey, if this pace continues, we could be seeing the signs of a modest recovery beginning to take root. Finally. Let’s hope the economy can keep it going.

Debit: Unfortunately, there are still lots of concerns. One of the biggest is that the decline in unemployment has been largely driven by part-time, low-paying jobs. Truly healthy and thriving economies depend on a steady stream of good, full-time high-paying jobs.

Debit: Last month the workforce participation rate climbed by 0.2%, however, it’s still scraping the bottom of a 35-year low — and that makes the unemployment rate figures appear better than they actually are.

Debit: No, you can’t attribute the smaller labor force to retiring Baby Boomers. The number of seniors over age 65 in the workforce has actually increased since the recession ended, at the expense of younger workers.

Debit: And America’s grandparents won’t be retiring any time soon. According to a recent USA Today poll, 47% of people over 50 plan on retiring later than they originally expected, and 82% say it’s at least somewhat likely that they’ll be working during their retirement years.

Credit: Speaking of seniors who refuse to retire, one of Obamacare’s biggest advocates, Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-Nevada) admitted that his annual insurance premiums increased by $4500 under the healthcare law he worked so hard to pass. Good job, Harry.

Debit: Reid and another key Obamacare proponent, Nancy Pelosi (D-California), need to explain why they’re exempting portions of their staffs from the new law — even though they helped foist Obamacare upon the majority of Americans who never wanted it in the first place. Typical. Laws for thee but not for me.

Debit: Although it’s too late now, young people between 18 and 29 who were originally in favor of Obamacare are finally starting to wake up and realize that it’s not only the rich who are being forced to subsidize healthcare for others under the new law — they are too. Oops.

Debit: In fact, 57% of so-called Millenials now disapprove of the law. That number will only continue to rise as more young people visit the Obamacare exchanges and see the high healthcare premiums — and even higher deductibles — they’ll be forced to pay in 2014, under penalty of law.

Credit: Apparently, those young adults’ wide-eyed idealism ends at the point where it affects their pocketbook. Too bad they refused to challenge those who were shamelessly insisting that 1 + 1 = 3 until after cold reality smacked them in the face. Just sayin’.

Debit: Those Obamacare premiums are going to eventually climb even higher — at least if California is any indication. That’s because older folks there are enrolling at a much higher rate than their overall portion of the total population, while young people are only signing up in proportion to their population.

Debit: Incredibly, part of the Obamacare exchange that’s supposed to calculate premium subsidies and transfer payments to the insurers hasn’t been built yet. So the Obama administration is now requiring insurance companies to — get this — estimate how much they are owed and then sort out the details later. Unbelievable.

Debit: But wait, there’s more. Unfortunately. One cyber security expert testified to Congress last week that no security was ever built into the federal website. None. And last month’s partial website “fix” made things worse by introducing even more security flaws.

Credit: So much for that “tech surge” of “the best and brightest.” Instead we got yet another clown car of “helpers,” managed by a bunch of clueless bureaucrats, appointed by arrogant politicians in Washington, DC, who believe that they can make better decisions than we can regarding how we run our personal lives at home. Yeah, I’m fed up. You should be too.

Credit: By the way … For a long time I’ve been warning that once Obamacare passed and the government began meddling with our healthcare system, we’d eventually be enduring service similar to what most folks get at the DMV. I was wrong. It’s going to be worse. God help us all.

(The Best of) By the Numbers

How many of the top 10 grossing movies of 1999 have you seen?

1. Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace (worldwide gross: $984M)

2. The Sixth Sense ($673M)

3. Toy Story 2 ($485M)

4. The Matrix ($463M)

5. Tarzan ($448M)

6. The Mummy ($416M)

7. Notting Hill ($364M)

8. The World is Not Enough ($362M)

9. American Beauty ($356M)

10. The Spy Who Shagged Me ($312M)

Source: Box Office Mojo

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 November

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. Kiplinger
3. The Simple Dollar
4. Wisebread
5. Business Insider
6. Money Talks News
7. Mr. Money Mustache
8. Budgets Are Sexy
9. Quest for $85,000
10. Deseret News
11. Afford Anything
12. Budgeting in the Fun Stuff
13. Dream Cash True
14. Boomer and Echo
15. Save Outside the Box
16. And Then We Saved
17. Control Your Cash
18. Consumerist
19. Time
20. Money Funk
21. Alternate History
22. Money Crashers
23. Dollars and Roses
24. Christian Science Monitor
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:

Patrick dropped me a note regarding my recent post highlighting great gift ideas for people who have everything:

“The article was very poorly written. Please find something else to do with your time.”

I know, Patrick. For your sake I hope I pass my coming audition on American Idol.

I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.

6 comments to Black Coffee: The DMV Experience — Coming Soon to a Hospital Near You

  • I’m both depressed and amused. Yes, you reminded me that since my existing Anthem Blue Cross plan is being cancelled effective the end of this year, the new plan they’ll stuff me in will cost nearly $100/mo MORE. Oh yes it is…

    If it wasn’t for the promise of a sane perspective and a great sense of humor, I would have stopped reading at the third Credit!

    • Len Penzo

      I’m on pins and needles, Ree. I have no idea if my employer is going to drop our plan later next year. If they don’t then, I suspect they will when the tax on “Cadillac” plans finally goes into effect. I’m angry and I still have my healthcare. I can only imagine how those who have lost their healthcare, or are now seeing the incredible rise in their premiums their being forced to endure on the exchanges feel — assuming they can get on them.

      If things get much worse, I suspect at some point we’ll be seeing people marching on the capitol with torches and pitchforks. This gross incompetence cannot continue without political consequences.

  • Interesting. My insurance has not changed and my spouse’s got cheaper. Apparently, part of the new law limits the amount of admin costs, which for his plan, was significant.

    I can understand the difference in younger vs. older people signing up. My company laid off 20% a few months ago. A friend of mine has been paying Cobra since then. She is 43, her husband is 54, and Obamacare is 1/2 the price of Cobra.

    On the flip side, many of the younger folks I know are still underemployed. Those that are not really would rather spend their money on an I-phone and beers out than insurance. I also know many 20-somethings with kids. The men are living with their SO’s, but don’t get married because their children get state-funded health insurance. Some of them specifically choose to NOT put their children on their insurance ($60/month) because they cannot afford it (but they still have that Iphone!).

    Anyway, I’ve seen all of those movies except Tarzan, and I’m not much of a movie goer. My spouse likes movies, and I was 29 with no kids though, so that probably explains it. That and my 7 yo loves Star Wars.

    • Len Penzo

      Count your lucky stars, Marcia. Are you getting subsidies? Either way, you are one of the few people who had insurance previously that will end up being better off! :-)

      The government may say they limit admin costs by law, but it defies credulity for the government Obamacare advocates to claim that adding a layer of government red tape will result in lower overall costs. It won’t. When the government gets involved, it’s impossible do anything cheaper compared to when the private sector is free to operate on its own.

      COBRA is a very-high cost temporary stop-gap measure to tide people over until they find a new job — people aren’t supposed to be on COBRA for long, so the more legitimate comparison is between Obamacare and regular employer plans.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Marcia! :-)

  • Ev

    In your poll, did you really mean round UP to the nearest five cents, or just round to the nearest five, as in $5.02 rounds down to $5.00, and $5.03 rounds up to $5.05?

    Rounding to the nearest five is brilliant – I loved that when I lived in Australia. It only applied to cash payments, and it worked a treat.

    Rounding UP every time though? That would be a heck of a rip off for consumers!

    • Len Penzo

      Round up — only because I suspect that is what would happen in reality, even though retailers would insist they were willing to round up or down.

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