Black Coffee: All the Newspeak That’s Fit to Print

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 getting some terrific feedback from you all on the new blog theme — and I’m listening. Here’s one example: I was hoping the lack of dates would give the blog a less-dated feel, so I removed them from my articles. However, I immediately received multiple requests to restore the dates — so I put them back.

I had no idea those dates are important to a lot of you, and I appreciate you taking the time to tell me.

Anyway … Keep those suggestions, likes, and dislikes coming! I can’t promise I’ll implement all of your suggestions, but I promise to seriously consider them.

Okay, off we go …

Credits and Debits

Credit: In March, the Huffington Post hailed a report from government bureaucrats in the Ministry of Truth claiming that the US “recovered” from the last recession faster than every country except for Germany. I know. What recovery?

Debit: Then again, those familiar with George Orwell’s 1984 know that the so-called “Newspeak” emanating from the Ministry of Truth claims that “war is peace,” “freedom is slavery,” “ignorance is strength,” and “two plus two equals five.”

Debit: Ask the wonks in America’s Ministry of Truth and they will tell you — without the slightest hint of irony — that we’re in an economic recovery because US businesses are now being destroyed faster than they’re being created. Bullish!

Debit: According to the Ministry of Truth, you can also be sure we’re in a recovery because the labor participation rate for Americans ages 25 to 29 is now at the lowest level since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started keeping records in 1982.

Debit: Sadly, there are plenty of folks who will never question the Ministry of Truth’s “recovery” Newspeak. So don’t ask them to explain how, during a recovery, the working-age population could increase by 8.1 million Americans since 2007 — and yet the economy has 531,000 fewer jobs.

Debit: More Newspeak: The US recovery is so strong that the number of Americans who are taking early 401k withdrawals is now 37% higher than in 2003.

Credit: Heck, if the economy gets much better, it won’t be long before nobody has any cash left in their 401k accounts. Forward!

Credit: But seriously, I suspect it won’t be too much longer before we’re reading Newspeak from the Ministry of Truth explaining why saving money is actually bad for the economy. Oh wait … they already went there. No, really.

Debit: Meanwhile, Fed chair Janet Yellen told Congress last week that US economic data is showing signs of “solid growth” — despite the fact that, at 0.1%, US GDP barely showed a pulse last quarter.

Debit: In case you’re wondering, that paltry 0.1% figure was in spite of the new juiced GDP formula the Ministry of Truth now uses to mute the negative impacts of recessions and make “recoveries” appear more robust.

Debit: Ms. Yellen said she’s also keeping the printing presses on hyper-drive. After all, the Ph.Ds in the Ministry of Truth say inflation is almost non-existent.

Debit: They’re right, you know. Er, as long as you don’t buy food, energy, clothing or have to pay for rent, healthcare, or a college education.

Credit: If only there was a congressman who was willing to ask Ms. Yellen why it’s necessary to continue pumping billions of new dollars into an economy that’s been in a “recovery” since 2009. I guess they didn’t want to be rude — or look like “crackpots.”

Debit: The rest of the world is well-aware that, after printing more than $4 trillion since 2009, the Fed is rapidly debasing dollar-denominated savings. That’s one reason why the BRICS are now establishing a competing monetary fund — and another sign that the dollar’s days are numbered.

Debit: Remember, when the rest of the world finally ditches the dollar, Americans’ standard of living will be drastically reduced. For most people in the US, this is inconceivable. Hey … Only crackpots like me question the omniscient Ministry of Truth.

Debit: By the way, Canadians are up in arms after discovering that the bacon industry there reduced package sizes by 25% while keeping prices level. You can bet the Canadian Ministry of Truth will use that as “proof” inflation is under control, eh. Hosers.

Debit: 1984 was Orwell’s vision of a world suffering from not only the twisted reality brought to you by the Ministry of Truth, but also omnipresent government surveillance, and the demonization of self-reliance. Sadly, it appears his vision is finally here in full force — if only a few decades later than he expected.

By the Numbers

A few facts on George Orwell’s 1984:

1949 Year Orwell published the novel.

65 Languages the book has been printed in.

4 In the novel, the number of Ministries that the superstate of Oceania uses to control the population. (Peace, Plenty, Love and Truth.)

7 1984‘s sales multiple after the emergence of the NSA spy scandal in 2013.

6 1984‘s rank on the Modern Library 100 Best Novels list.

1980 The book’s original title. Orwell then changed the title to 1982, before finally settling on 1984.

Source: Wikipedia

The Question of the Week

How much money do you have in your wallet right now?

View Results

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Last Week’s Poll Result

If you could choose your birthday, which month would it be in?

  • June (16%)
  • May (14%)
  • July (12%)
  • August (10%)
  • April (8%)
  • October (8%)
  • March (8%)
  • September (8%)
  • February (4%)
  • November (4%)
  • January (4%)
  • December (4%)

More than 300 people weighed-in on this one last week, and it turns out that more people would want to have their birthday in June than any other month. I’m not really surprised — school is out in June and the weather is pleasant. Meanwhile, December, January, November and February tied for the least favorite month — which suggests that most people think winter is a lousy time for celebrations. I was born in February, but if I was allowed to choose, I’d probably pick the month of May.

Other Useless News

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

1. Kentucky (2.97 pages/visit)
2. Alaska (2.15)
3. Arkansas (2.12)
4. Hawaii (2.09)
5. Alabama (2.05)

46. Indiana (1.51)
47. Nebraska (1.44)
48. Oklahoma   (1.43)
49. Montana (1.35)
50. Vermont (1.31)

Whether you happen to enjoy what you’re reading (like my friends in Kentucky) — or not (ahem, Ben & Jerry) — 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 via email too! Thank you.

Here’s Some Posts You Might Enjoy …

Work to Not WorkDid Your Parents Ever Give You the Talk? (…About Credit Cards.)

Million Dollar NinjaAsset Allocation: Where to Invest Your Money

Money CounselorBest Way to Prepay a Mortgage?

Wealthy MoneyWhy Failure Is a Myth

Adventures In FrugalFinancial Literacy Is Teaching Me the True Meaning of Freedom

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:

Christina wrote in after reading my post explaining why people who can’t live on $40,000 per year have nobody to blame but themselves:

“I have a small problem with this post …”

Uh huh. Get in line, Christina.

I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.

Photo Credit: brendan-c


  1. 3

    Jason says

    Can you help explain more or share articles about what would happen to quality of life in the US if the USD is dumped as the global reserve currency? I have never thought of this point and am very curious of learning more.

  2. 7


    Credit: Being mentioned on despite stealing my advise from Spiderman.

    Fact: I think I might have gone a little overboard with the use of “air quotes” in that post.

    Thanks for sharing “the talk” with everyone! I hope you enjoyed it too!

  3. 9

    MJ says

    I really enjoy your articles and the redesign is pretty sharp too. I wonder if all the money I am putting into my 401(k) is a waste of time with the dollar set to collapse in my working lifetime (I’m 38). I currently contribute to the IRS limits but what happens to it if we have hyperinflation and a new currency needs to be established?

    • 10

      Len Penzo says

      Thank you, MJ. I got an email from another reader asking me essentially the same question this week (re: 401k contributions) — so I’ll be addressing this topic next week.

      If the hyperinflation arrives and the dollar implodes, the money in your 401k will be severely devalued. That’s the trouble with paper currency backed by nothing but blind faith; if the public loses confidence that the dollar will maintain its value, then the currency quickly becomes worthless — and savings that took decades to accumulate can be annihilated in short order.

    • 12

      Len Penzo says

      Yes, Michael. I am insisting my kids read both 1984 and Animal Farm before they leave the nest.

      (I’d also ask them to read Atlas Shrugged, but I don’t want to overwhelm them … so I’ll just make them watch the movie.)

  4. 15


    I think the problem is that we use aggregate or mean numbers to measure production and other aspects of the recovery, even though something like median or quartile range might make more sense. Of course, with more uniformly distributed income, this wouldn’t matter very much at all, but we know which direction that’s headed

    Oh hey, and thanks for including me :)

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