As bad as the news has been recently, which is plenty bad, whenever there is any positive news it gets trumpeted across the front pages.  For example, earlier this week the Labor Department reported that new claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week by 21,000, and that’s considered big news in an economy with 15 million people unemployed or marginally employed?  Boy, talk about a low threshold for good news.  Another positive, U.S. retail sales increased in June, but some analysts suggest that the heat wave drove more people into air-conditioned malls where they must have been just forced to shop.

But away from the front pages there were a few stories that I think begin to show the kind of actions taken by companies and individuals out of the spotlight that will begin to move the economy in a more sustained positive direction.  The biggest was that Sam’s Club, part of WalMart, in conjunction with Superior Financial Group, an SBA lender, is going to begin to offer SBA small business loans up to $25,000 to its small business customers.  That is some really creative thinking – the kind that we need to see more of to help move the economy forward, and it would not have been possible with the existence of SBA and its 75% guarantee.

Another positive was that the American Bankers Association recently reported that credit card delinquencies dropped to below 4% for the first time in eight years.  People are borrowing less and saving more, which will eventually help to rekindle some spending which the economy so desperately needs.  Another example can be found in the service sector of the economy where wages historically lag other industries.  Some companies such as Whole Foods, the Container Store and Best Buy for example, are beginning to realize that paying a better hourly wage to employees can lead to better customer experiences and improved profits.  And turning back to that slight improvement in retail sales, behind those numbers is the fact that retailers have been tightly controlling inventories.  Any steady increase in sales no matter how small as long as it is steady, begins to move back upstream because in order to begin to increase inventories, suppliers are going to have to increase production which could lead to increased hiring.  So looking below the surface where the water is choppy with so much bad news, we find that there are some good things beginning to grow.

We are disappearing for three weeks.  Be back on August 4th.

I would like to know, Congress, what you plan to do if we go into the second dip of the recession, besides preen and bloviate about how awful it is.  We are getting closer and closer in case you hadn’t noticed.  You evidently haven’t paid any attention to the economic news over the last two weeks.  Are any of the economy’s problems affecting any of your constituents by chance?  How about the state government in your state – no problems there, right?  Any school systems laying off teachers, or police departments having to cut the force because they don’t have enough money to pay everybody? 

We hear all the time about the national unemployment rate.  What about your state?  Full employment has historically been considered to be about 5.5% +/-.  Three of you are below that.  Eighteen of you are above last week’s stated rate of 9.5%, and lots of you are in the mid-to-upper 7’s.  Oh, and by the way, you wouldn’t just happen to know how many people in your state are about to run out of their unemployment benefits would you?  It must not be many because it seems that you left town last week and left it on your desk.  I know how much your constituents appreciate your concern.

So what are you going to do?  One thing that I am fairly sure of is that you are going to do whatever the person or group that throws the most money at you wants you to do.  There is also the possibility that you might have to do what the group that screams loudest (whether they know what they re talking about or not) wants you to do.  You can’t help the “good people of your state” if you’re not re-elected now can you?  And getting re-elected takes a lot of money, doesn’t it?  I would really like some honest answers.  But I also didn’t come down with yesterday’s rain either, so I’m not holding my breath.