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 mom and dad, as well as the Honeybee’s folks will be coming over for dinner today.
Don’t worry — there won’t be any scenes out of something you might see in Meet the Fockers. Our parents’ get along famously.
Okay, here we go …
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From July 2011:
Len Penzo dot Com Surpasses One Million Page Views – You never forget your first million. It’s hard to believe that was more than two years ago.
And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy …
Don’t Quit Your Day Job – Why Do Some People Assume Math Is Magic?
Money Life and More – Store Brands vs. Name Brands: Can You Tell the Difference?
Control Your Cash – You Can’t Spell “Wealth” Without “O”
Your Finances Simplified – 3 Secrets of Wealth I Learned from Sean “Diddy” Combs
Make Money Your Way – How I Made $1000s, Thanks to My Mum
Credits and Debits
Debit: Did you see this? The average price of a new car is now $31,252 — that’s $1000 more than a year ago. What’s driving up prices? The biggest reason is low interest rates that are enticing buyers to load up on all those expensive options.
Debit: On a related note, milk prices may double if a political gambit by Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota) backfires. He’s twisting arms to ensure a farm bill gets reauthorized by encouraging the enforcement an arcane law from 1949 that will push moo juice to $6 per gallon next year. I know. I don’t get it either.
Debit: Higher milk prices are the last thing 1000 recently laid-off employees of a Kalamazoo medical device company need. They were let go after a new 2.3% Obamacare excise tax imposed on medical device manufacturers increased the cost of doing business. Forward!
Debit: That “innocent” little excise tax is just one of 109 Obamacare regulations buried within 10,516 pages of the Federal Register — that’s more than eight times the pages found in the Gutenberg Bible. The good news is all of those new regulations are going to make healthcare less expensive! Or so we’re told.
Credit: Hey, the latest CBO analysis says Obamacare will save the government $35 billion over ten years — if implementation of the individual mandate is delayed for just one year. Huh? If Obamacare actually lowered healthcare expenses, shouldn’t a delay do the exact opposite?
Debit: Then again, bureaucratic red tape and layers of useless oversight hinders government from doing anything cheaply or efficiently. Waste is rampant — most recently exemplified by the loss of $42 million on yet another federal clean-energy program.
Credit: In 2012 the federal government lost $261 billion — 7% of all spending — to waste, fraud and abuse. How many people think there are private health insurance companies out there that could get away with that and still stay in business?
Debit: Government incompetence is another problem. Last year, all of the bureaucrats managing the Social Security Administration couldn’t prevent $1.3 billion in disability benefits from going to 36,000 people who didn’t qualify for them because they earned too much.
Credit: Needless to say, unlike the private sector, the government has little incentive to eliminate waste, fraud, abuse — or gross incompetence — largely because its operating expenses are derived through taxation.
Debit: Despite these self-evident truths, statists are still asking us to believe that the government is more than capable of providing better and less expensive healthcare than the private sector. What’s really scary is so many people swallow that myth whole. Why?
Debit: In other news, the so-called income gap — the spread between the richest 1% and everyone else — is at its widest point since the roaring 20s. Of course, we all know what happened at the end of that era. Uh oh.
Debit: You can bet the folks in Atlantic City don’t think it’s anything like the Roaring 20s, especially considering that local casino profits there are down 54% year over year. Maybe it’s time to put everything on red.
Debit: Speaking of red (ink), according to the Congressional Budget Office, the US federal deficit in August was $146 billion. Strangely — and stop me if you’ve heard this before — the US Treasury reported that it accrued no additional debt. Again. For the third consecutive month.
Debit: Is anybody else bothered by the book-cooking going on? Plenty of private citizens have been thrown in jail for foisting such unscrupulous accounting tricks on their stockholders.
Credit: The motives of our federal officials may be well-intentioned, but if we can’t trust our government to give us legitimate, transparent data on every aspect of its finances, then the sanctity of our entire financial system is undermined.
Debit: This is serious stuff, folks, but I’m beginning to think that the-powers-that-be don’t get it.
By the Numbers
The US National Debt is “officially” $17 trillion — but by most accounts, if you include unfunded obligations, the debt is actually somewhere north of $100 trillion. So, just how big is a trillion?
12 Zeros in one trillion. (1,000,000,000,000)
31,688 Years required to count to one trillion (assuming you could call out one number every second).
8 Seconds required to say “Nine hundred and ninety nine billion, nine hundred and ninety nine million, nine hundred and ninety nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine.”
48 Readers who verified whether it really takes eight seconds to say “999,999,999,999.”
10,000 Square miles of $100,000 homes required to reach $1 trillion in value (assuming 10 homes per block, and 100 blocks per square mile).
1,954 Square miles in the state of Delaware.
6 States less than 10,000 square miles in area. (Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island.)
11 Weeks of additional vacation that $1 trillion would provide for every American worker.
2 Times Chuck Norris has reportedly counted to infinity.
The Question of the Week
Last Week’s Poll Result
On average, how many colds do you get each year?
- Less than 1 (36%)
- 1 (30%)
- 2 (26%)
- 3 or more (8%)
With more than 200 people responding, I’m mildly surprised — but very happy to learn — that a plurality are fortunate enough to get less than one cold per year. I strongly suspect most of those folks don’t have kids!
Last Week’s Contest Winners
Congratulations to Adrienne S, Randy A, and Alexandra! You all won a copy of Clark Howard’s Living Large for the Long Haul. I hope you all enjoy the book!
Other Useless News
Here are the top — and bottom — five states in terms of the average number of pages viewed per visit here at Len Penzo dot Com over the past 30 days:
1. Idaho (3.69 pages/visit)
2. Montana (3.24)
3. North Dakota (2.42)
4. South Dakota (2.36)
5. Utah (2.33)
46. Nebraska (1.76)
47. New York (1.75)
48. New Jersey (1.73)
49. Mississippi (1.66)
50. Delaware (1.57)
Whether you happen to enjoy what you’re reading (like my freedom-loving friends in Idaho) — or not (ahem, Delaware) — 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. ðŸ™‚
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: Len@LenPenzo.com
Last week’s note from a pediatrician who opined that I was “very wise” generated this response from Clumpus:
… I’m with your Honeybee. I want a second opinion too.
Okay, Clumpus — here’s one: I think the good doctor’s judgment is beyond reproach.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.