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’ve got some honey-dos to take care of this week, so you know what that means … It’s an espresso edition of Black Coffee. And remember: The cup is smaller, but it still packs the same kick as my regular serving of joe.
At least it should. If not, send your complaints to the managing blog barista here. Yes, that would be me.
Okay, off we go …
Silver Bullion Giveaway Winner
Congratulations to Travis! He is the big winner of last week’s Canadian Grey Wolf silver coin giveaway. Nearly 100 people participated. Thanks to everyone who took the time to enter! If you didn’t win this time, don’t worry — I plan on having another bullion giveaway soon.
Credits and Debits
Credit: US federal tax revenue hit an all-time high in fiscal year 2014 — in all, the Treasury took in a little more than $3 trillion. That’s good news for the nation if only because it helps pay the bills.
Debit: Still, I wonder how much lower that figure would be if the Fed wasn’t propping up the economy. According to a Citigroup economist, the markets are so addicted to quantitative easing that they need $200 billion from the Fed each quarter just to stave off a collapse. No, really.
Debit: Despite the increased tax revenue, the US still spent more than it earned. I know. This year it exceeded its budget by almost $0.5 trillion. Maintaining the current — and ever-growing — federal government behemoth isn’t cheap, folks.
Debit: Here’s one reason why it costs so much to run the government: Taxpayers ponied up $775 million to pay the salaries of 57,000 federal workers who spent parts of the last three years on paid leave — some for longer than one year.
Credit: Of course, in spite of that evidence, there will always be the typical big-government cheerleaders who use their twisted logic to insist that targeted government furloughs of non-essential employees cost taxpayers money.
Credit: If US politicians had the fortitude to simply keep 2014 expenditures equivalent to what they spent in 2008, then the Treasury would have had a $100 billion surplus this year — that’s $333 for every man, woman and child in America.
Debit: If you think the nanny state is costly now, just wait until the massive federal bureaucracy that manages and administers Obamacare kicks into full gear. Speaking of Obamacare, its website refuses to reveal 2015 insurance costs until after the election. Imagine that.
Debit: By the way, the New York Times is finally reporting that Obamacare enrollees are reluctant to use it because of the ridiculously high deductibles — which suggests that Obamacare is nothing but an absurdly expensive form of catastrophic health insurance. Yes, yes; and a government jobs program.
Debit: It’s no secret that loose lending standards were a prime contributor to the housing market crash in 2008. Even so, Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, and private lenders are on the verge of a new agreement that will make it easier for people with poor credit to buy a home. Unbelievable.
Debit: Say … You don’t think they want to make it easier for subprime borrowers to get a mortgage because the tepid housing market needs a fresh supply of buyers to get housing prices rising again, do you? You know, just like last time.
Debit: Finally, an Alabama man won $1000 in a police settlement where he accused the cops of using excessive force back in 2008 after leading them on a high speed chase. As for his lawyers … well, they got $459,000.
Credit: Now you know why most bar associations prohibit sex between lawyers and their clients: It keeps their clients from being billed twice for essentially the same service. (Legal disclaimer for my lawyer friends: That was a joke.)
By the Numbers
Here are a few poll results on honesty/ethics in professions:
1 Nurses’ rank among 43 professions whose ethics are seen as being high or very high. (82%)
20 Percentage of poll respondents who rated lawyers’ ethical standards as high or very high.
36 Lawyers’ rank among 43 professions whose honesty and ethical standards are seen as high or very high.
3 Percentage of poll respondents who rated the ethical standards of medical doctors and engineers as low or very low.
35 Percentage of respondents who rated lawyers’ ethical standards as low or very low.
8 Professions seen by the public as being less honest than lawyers. (ad practitioners, car salesmen, insurance salesmen, labor union leaders, telemarketers, state office holders, Congressmen, lobbyists)
The Question of the Week
Last Week’s Poll Results
What is your current net worth (including home equity)?
- $100,000 to $500,000 (38%)
- $500,001 to $999,999 (20%)
- $10,001 to $100,000 (17%)
- $1 million or more (14%)
- $0 or less (6%)
- $1 to $10,000 (5%)
More than 400 people responded to last week’s question. I’m happy to see that, of those who responded, almost 4 out of 5 readers here have a net worth greater than $100,000 — and 1 in 7 are millionaires. Great job, folks!
Other Useless News
Here are the top 5 articles viewed by my 6123 RSS feed and weekly email subscribers over the past 30 days (excluding Black Coffee posts):
- 10 Things We Can’t Live Without (Even Though Grandma Did)
- The Best Things to Buy During the Fall Season
- A Real-Life Lesson on the Importance of Recognizing Hidden Value
- Happiness and the Value of Understanding Why You Do What You Do
- Infographic: How the American Dream Is Getting More Expensive
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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 out to me at: Len@LenPenzo.com
After reading my piece on things people overpay for, Kenny Schneider added this additional pearl of wisdom regarding the high cost of first-class air travel:
Coach gets you there just as fast.
So true, Kenny. Too bad it doesn’t keep the TSA from making air travel a, um, frisky business.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.
Photo Credit: brendan-