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.
Let’s get right to it this week …
Credits and Debits
Debit: Don’t look now, but fast food workers across America went on strike again this week, hoping to secure hourly wages of $15. Apparently, burger-flipping and saying, “Would you like fries with that?” requires more skill than it used to.
Credit: Speaking of restaurant employees who don’t deserve a raise, how about the marketing genius who used a drone to deliver fresh asparagus directly from the farm to a haughty five-star Dutch restaurant this week — only to see said drone crash and burn before getting there. Literally.
Credit: And you thought last year’s TGI Friday holiday drone — complete with mistletoe and an onboard kiss-cam — was a bad idea. Actually, it was a really bad idea. That drone careened into a lady’s face and cut her nose. Um, can you say … “free chocolate lava cake”? (I know I can!)
Debit: If you’re a so-called “high-earner,” the odds are you’d probably appreciate some free lava cake right now too. A new survey found that one in four people who make at least $100,000 annually are living paycheck to paycheck. No, really. And don’t look at me.
Debit: Did you see this? Last month, the New York Times reported on a Florida woman who has withheld her mortgage payments for five years — but may soon get her home scot free anyway. You responsible folks who dutifully pay your bills every month can thank those quirky statute of limitation laws. Or not.
Debit: Apparently, individuals aren’t the only ones who are struggling to pay the bills — governments are too; in February alone, the world’s central banks dipped into their rainy day funds by selling $57 billion of US Treasury bonds. Wow.
Debit: You know the US is in trouble when hard-working people risk losing their home equity and future social security benefits by maximizing their income today. Those who rely on Obamacare subsidies to cover its onerous insurance premiums now have to worry about that.
Credit: Liberty demands self-reliance and personal responsibility. Sadly, that’s not the majority mindset today; and Obamacare is just another sad example of how otherwise hard-working citizens lose their liberty when they demand the government should “take care” of them from cradle to grave.
Credit: The good news is, because a growing number of healthy Americans are realizing they can avoid Obamacare’s premiums and wait until they’re sick or injured to take advantage of it, the healthcare law is now in a death spiral. The bad news is, we’ll have to be patient.
Credit: In other news, General Electric is getting out of the lending business; they’re selling their GE Capital unit even though it has been a giant tax shelter for them over the years. Hmmm. Why would they do that?
Credit: Bill Holter astutely wonders if GE sees the writing on the wall and the sale of its undisputed cash cow isn’t “calling a top to the entire paper bubble now enveloping the world.” We’ll see, but that makes a lot of sense to me.
Debit: One of the most obvious signs of the “paper bubble” is the perversely-low — if not outright negative — interest rates being offered today. Then again, Ben Bernanke says you can blame those on “a global savings glut“. I know. (Insert laugh track here.)
Credit: David Stockman, who directed the US Office of Management and Budget in the 1980s, blames low interest rates on something else: “Financial fraud — $15 trillion of securities purchased by central banks with credit made from thin air, and tens of trillions more purchased by gamblers on equally sketchy repo credit.” Yes, Mr. Stockman. Yes!
Debit: Finally … A Florida man was arrested last week after he allegedly sold deputies a bunch of “funny money” — on multiple occasions, no less. How did the authorities find this guy, you ask? How else? He posted an online Craigslist ad … for “Legit Counterfeit $$.” Heh.
Credit: On the bright side, the alleged scofflaw may end up in prison for a few years — but, like any counterfeiter, he also has a promising future in central banking.
The Question of the Week
Last Week’s Poll Result
Have you ever had a personalized automobile license plate?
- No (81%)
- Yes, but not anymore. (15%)
- Yes, and I still do. (4%)
More than 400 people answered this week’s survey question — and four out of five have never had a personalized license plate. I had one many years ago but, for me, the novelty wore off rather quickly — so I decided to save money and get rid of it. In California, annual renewal fees for vanity plates today can run upwards of $80. Thanks, but no thanks.
By the Numbers
Vanity license plates:
9,700,000 Number of cars in the US with a vanity plate.
3.8 Approximate percentage of all cars in the US with vanity plates. (In Canada, it’s 2.9%.)
16 Percentage of cars in Virginia with vanity plates; that’s the most of any state.
4.6 Percentage of cars in Ontario with vanity plates; that’s the most of any Canadian province.
50 Texas’ vanity plate penetration rank among all states; just 0.5% of all registered vehicles there have them.
2 New Hampshire’s vanity plate penetration rank. (14%)
1931 Year the first vanity license plate was issued. (Pennsylvania)
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. Saskatchewan (2.35 pages/visit)
2. Alberta (2.33)
3. Prince Edward Island (2.25)
4. Newfoundland (2.10)
5. Saskatchewan (2.05)
9. Manitoba (1.85)
10. British Columbia (1.81)
11. Yukon Territory (1.63)
12. Nunavut (1.50)
13. Northwest Territories (1.33)
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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: Len@LenPenzo.com
Jeremy left this comment after reading my taste test experiment on six different varieties of kid cereal that suggested the little ones could be easily fooled by putting low-cost generic knockoffs in name-brand boxes:
I think everything you say makes a ton of sense!
I’ve been telling the Honeybee that for 20 years now, Jeremy — and she still doesn’t believe me.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.
Photo Credit: brendan-c