Black Coffee: Um, Would You Like Fries with That?

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 just got back from a business trip to Boston, so I’ve got an espresso edition of Black Coffee for you this week. I know what you’re thinking but, ounce for ounce, I promise it packs the same punch as the regular fare — or your money back.

I love visiting Boston, especially in springtime. It is one of America’s great cities and, I’ve been there more than two dozen times now. Needless to say, because Boston has an extremely rich history, there is a lot of stuff to see and do. My favorite section of Boston is the North End, which is the city’s Italian enclave and home of Paul Revere.

What? You didn’t know Paul Revere was Italian?

All joking aside, I usually can’t leave Boston without making at least one trip to the North End for a taste of the authentic Italian cuisine there.

Okay, time to get to it. Off we go …

Credits and Debits

Debit: I see some fast food workers across America walked off the job last Thursday. A fry-cook spokesman for a group in Oakland deadpanned that his unskilled entry-level position is worth $15 per hour. Heh. If more money is his goal, he should try a career in comedy.

Debit: I wonder if the strikers in Oakland are willing to move to Switzerland. On Sunday, the Swiss are voting to raise the minimum wage there for burger flippers and other unskilled labor to $25 per hour. I know.

Credit: Perhaps we should all be rooting for the oafs in Oakland and the misguided Swiss socialists. If being able to say, “Would you like fries with that?” is worth somewhere between $30,000 and $50,000 per year, then how much are skilled jobs really worth?

Credit: Here’s some good news: Federal receipts hit an all-time high last month. Through April, US Treasury revenue in 2014 is already more than $1.75 trillion. That’s a lot of dough. Remember that the next time your Congressman claims taxes are too low.

Debit: Now the bad news: Despite the record influx of cash into Treasury coffers, the government is still running a fiscal deficit in 2014; it’s currently more than $600 billion — and counting.

Credit: That’s just more proof that America’s fiscal problems aren’t due to a lack of revenue — it’s because of too much spending.

Debit: Of course, unlike businesses in the private-sector, the government can print money out of thin air — so it has no real incentive to cut costs. Otherwise, far less than $5 billion would have been spent on the implementation of Obamacare websites. (So far.)

Debit: “Unpossible!” you say? There’s been so much mismanagement and waste, the government has spent $474 million just to develop and implement four (count ’em, four) broken (yes, broken) Obamacare exchanges: Massachusetts, Oregon, Nevada, and Maryland. And … it’s gone.

Debit: Then there’s Hawaii. So far, they’ve spent $100 million in taxpayer funds to develop their Obamacare exchange — and almost 10,000 people have signed up! (Um, before you get too excited … that comes out to $10,000 per enrollee. Unbelievable.)

Credit: Cue the “Len is a heartless crackpot!” cries from folks who have never met a Big Government politician they didn’t like in three, two, one …

Debit: Thankfully, Obamacare is such a great idea, everybody is clamoring to sign up — otherwise the government might feel compelled to waste $700 million on a marketing campaign that tries to convince people why they should enroll, even though it makes zero financial sense. Oh wait

Credit: I guess $700 million doesn’t buy what it used to. After all, that’s what it cost to build the Freedom Tower’s brand new 9/11 Memorial and plaza. As for the marketing campaign for Obamacare … well, it gave us Pajama Boy.

Credit: By the way, if you think all of that Obamacare incompetence, waste, fraud and abuse is bad, then just imagine what we’re in for once these same bureaucrats start managing our healthcare. Forward!

Debit: The staggering costs being spent to prop up the Obamacare debacle is yet another sign that the good ship America hit its economic iceberg awhile ago. You can spend your time rearranging deck chairs — or you can find a lifeboat while there’s still time.

By the Numbers

Hey! It’s only money — they can always print more. The enormous costs of state Obamacare exchanges:

$51 million Amount of federal grants that Nevada has spent on their system — so far.

$57 million Amount that Massachusetts has acknowledged spending. (And they’re asking for an additional $121 million! Hey, why not?)

$118 million The price to build Maryland’s crippled exchange. They’re attempting to switch to the technology that runs Connecticut’s exchange.

$248 million Money spent to build Oregon’s healthcare exchange. It has since been abandoned in favor of the federal website.

$4.7 billion (That’s billion, with a ‘b’.) Amount the federal government has doled out to states for Obamacare exchange development.

Source: Politico

Other Useless News

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

1. British Columbia (2.42 pages/visit)
2. Prince Edward Island (2.33)
3. Saskatchewan (2.05)
4. Ontario (1.87)
5. Alberta (1.79)

9. Manitoba (1.68)
10. New Brunswick (1.67)
11. Quebec (1.64)
12. Northwest Territories (1.50)
13. Nunavut (1.00)

Whether you happen to enjoy what you’re reading (like those cold and crazy canucks in British Columbia, eh) — or not (you hosers living on the frozen Nunavut tundra) — 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.

Last Week’s Poll Result

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

  • $21 – $50 (29%)
  • $1 – $20 (24%)
  • More than $100. (18%)
  • $51 – $100 (15%)
  • $0 (14%)

More than 400 people answered this week’s survey question. Guess what. Two out of three people who took the survey had $50 or less in their wallet — including 14% who carried no cash at all. Then again, almost one in five had enough spare cash in their wallet to make change for a $100 bill. I try to keep the amount of cash in my wallet between $50 and $100. Right now, however, I’ve got just two bills in my wallet that total exactly $25 — and that means it’s time for me to ask the Honeybee for a cash recharge.

The Question of the Week

What type of milk do you prefer?

View Results

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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 me at:

This week, Jack sent me an email with the subject “Black Coffee”. Apparently a man of few words, he got right to the point:

“You complain too much.”

Hold on, Jack … I’m not complaining; I’m just telling the truth.

I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.

Photo Credit: brendan-c


  1. 1

    Karen Kinnane says

    The Swiss defeated the proposed $25./ hour minimum wage resoundingly. There is no minimum wage in Switzerland. The idea there is the young and uneducated start at the bottom for little money per hour. If they become educated, work hard, prove invaluable to their employers, their hourly rate will rise. If they are 40 years old with children and still producing at the lowest / entry level of performance, with no additional skills or education acquired in the past 25 years, they deserve the most minimal wage. There are very few workers at the minimum wage in America. Anyone who proves himself important to the company, dedicated to doing a good job, has a good attitude, and makes some effort to learn new skills is quickly given more money SO HE WON’T LEAVE THE EMPLOYER. If you are a burger flipper and want more money, LEARN NEW SKILLS, WORK HARDER, GET PROMOTED OR FIND A BETTER PAYING JOB. What will happen with a higher minimum wage is that fewer low skilled people will be hired, more robots will be designed to flip burgers, drop fries, and there will be less opportunity for those who want to start with a minimum wage job and improve their skills.

  2. 5

    rob says

    Hey. You said this would be as great as a regular edition or my money back! Since you don’t charge……how about DOUBLE my my back?

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