I am here in Alexandria VA at an event being put on by FDIC to look at small business lending issues. Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Ben Bernanke is a panelist as well as several members of Congress, bankers and of course, a representative from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who represents small business about as much as bin Laden represents U.S. national security interest.

The event is scheduled to begin in approximately 25 minutes and I will be bringing live updates as the discussion unfolds. The issue of small business lending has been at the fore of discussion for two years and still nothing seems to improve. Small businesses have repeatedly said they need demand to increase, not loans, but most likely missing from today’s discussion will be how to get more federal small business contracts into the hands of small business instead of large and Fortune 500 firms, where most currently go.

It should be interesting to see what happens, although it most likely be more rhetoric and less substance, but we will see.

UPDATE — 1:09 p.m. ET — Things are getting underway with Rep. Spencer Bachus, the Chair of the House Financial Services Committee. The first panel is FDIC Chair Shelia Bair, Ben Bernanke, Senator Mark Warner, and Thomas Bell from the US Chamber.

Shelia Bair is speaking about improving the environment for small business lending.

And now Rep. Bachus will speak…he is focusing on small businesses role in job creation, for which he is correct, but he is focusing on the free market rhetoric, which is a complete joke…now going on and on about the need for less regulation, which has nothing to do with small business…typical.

UPDATE — 1:20 p.m. ET – Rep. Bachus is still jawing on about the damage, I mean, focus his committee will do in the 112th Congress…a lot of talk on deregulation, which makes me wonder…isn’t that how our economy got here in the first place?

More talk on the importance of job creation…now the panel is talking about the need for sales and demand…Bernanke is saying the sales will pick up over this year…Bar’s outlook is that again, sales and demand will improve this year…Senator Warner wants a balance between government and regulation with greater export growth, where small biz accouts for more than 90 percent…Thom Bell says government is the problem when it comes to job creation and in helping small business, this guy is so lost when it comes to what small businesses really need…

UPDATE — 1:30 p.m. ET – The discussion the panel is having on where banks are when it comes to small business lending and how they got there, but we have heard this discussion over and over and over again over the past two years…

A question about a small federal contractor who cannot get loans, even though she has contracts…their answer is the need to rebalance, so even having government contracts is not a means to help secure loans. Thom Bell from the U.S. Chamber is responding that government does not pay quick enough to support loans…Bell has no business being on this panel, as the U.S. Chamber notoriously lobby’s for anti-small business policy…

UPDATE — 1:33 p.m. ET – The discussion has turned now into the TARP and TALF and the issues stemming from that…Bernanke is discussing the balance of adjusting regulation for small banks while taking strides to keep the money flow at a reasonable level…included in this is the financial regulation legislation recently passed that is supposed to help shore up and level the playing field for small community banks. The U.S. Chamber, surprisingly, is opposed to that bill and regulation…

UPDATE — 1:57 p.m. ET – Bernanke sees that banks are no longer tightening, but are loosening a little, at least as small businesses are concerned, so he feels the economy has hit a turning point and banks are improving their lending, however, he warns against over regulation…

Oh good…the U.S. Chamber thinks the economy is improving according to Bell…especially because of the extension of the Bush tax cuts. Bell wants to improve the Dodd-Frank financial regs bill, which my guess would be full repeal..

I am sorry for being so negative about the U.S. Chamber, but they do not speak for actual small businesses, and Bell’s comments seem counterproductive to helping small business.

UPDATE — 2:07 p.m. – Bernanke is discussing that the various programs the Fed has rolled out over the past several years have helped to stabilize and improve the economy, which will lead to stronger and increased lending for small businesses, but the examples being used were focused on how the stock market has improved…

Senator Warner is discussing raising the debt ceiling, saying that the focus needs to be on both short term growth coupled with long term deficit reduction. Warner said they will be introducing the Bowles-Simpson commission recommendations into legislation later this year as a means of improving the economy while reducing the deficit. What?

UPDATE — 2:13 p.m. ET — The panel’s consensus is that a balancing act is needed to keep spending around 20 percent of GDP as that is all that will be brought in on taxes, so long-term strategy needs to bring down debt.

Senator Warner is touting the need to make hard decisions, which is why he keeps touting the Cat Food Commission’s recommendations as a means to bring down debt, while still growing the economy.

Bernanke is saying that until the real estate market improves, small businesses should not rely on collateral to get loans, so small businesses need to do the hard work to get loans, but Bernanke did not expand on what that hard work should be…

UPDATE — 2:20 p.m. ET — Panel one is over…up next is Panel Two to look at some of the solutions are to these issues…

This panel consists of Don Graves from the Treasury Department, Steven Smits from the SBA,
Anthony Lowe from FDIC, John Harrison from AL State Banking Dept., Jorge Corralejo from the Latin Business Chamber of Los Angeles, William Dennis from NFIB, Rebecca Rainey from the Central Bank of Taos, and Kathleen Sowa from Bank of America.

The panel has begun talking about the difference between the TARP bill and the small business lending bill from this past September…

UPDATE — 2:25 p.m. ET — Corralejo is talking about how big business and banks are doing better, as well as Wall Street, but small businesses are still struggling…several others on the panel agree, and they all agree that the US economy will not recover until small businesses revive and begin to grow again…

A big issue being raised by moderator John Harwood that banks are not or have not been willing to loan and small businesses are not seeking loans mainly because of a lack of demand…this is where a discussion on improving federal small business contracting programs should be inserted.

UPDATE — 2:36 p.m. ET — The panel is discussing the rift between banks being willing to lend and small businesses still not being able to get loans…still no real solutions yet. The banks claim they need more capital in order to get out more loans and will only lend to solid small businesses; the small businesses still claim that regardless of how solid the business has been.

The small business lending bill will be helpful for some community banks and not for others, according to the SBA…

Several members on the panel have brought up the need for other ways to get credit and money into the hands of small businesses…I say, government contracts would be a good way.

UPDATE — 2:46 p.m. ET — The panel discussion has shifted to ways small businesses can have collateral or enough support behind them in order to qualify for loans, so the banks can make well qualified loans and get the support they need from the government in the case of default…looking at talking programs being used at the state level, where in this case, the federal government could step in and back the loans to help support the community banks in the case of defaults…

Several panel members believe small businesses need more equity to help boost theme…

Corralejo is talking about small business contracting and how it can play to help small businesses…exactly! He hit the nail on the head…he is talking about the need for accurate contracting data in order to see where improvements should be in getting contracts into the hands of small business…he and I need to talk.

UPDATE — 2:54 p.m. ET — The discussion has shifted to federal contracting and the two panelists — from the SBA and from the Treasury — have no clue what they are talking about when it comes to contracting. A person in the audience brought up the issue of contracting and how the government is failing small businesses in that area, especially minority, woman, and veteran owned businesses…no one here, except for me, has any idea about small business contracting and what the data looks like, which is very dismal. If the data was good, we would not have to keep suing the GSA.

UPDATE — 2:59 p.m. ET — Now moved to talking about repealing the healthcare bill…our main concern has been with the 1099 reporting provision, which will be a burden for small business and needs to be repealed. The panelist from NFIB supports repealing the whole healthcare bill, which is no big surprise, since NFIB is a mouthpiece for the GOP and push the Republican agenda, which again, does not always take real small business concerns into account…I think the conversation on healthcare is a moot point, the discussion needs to move back to federal contracting.

UPDATE — 3:09 p.m. ET — The panel is looking at several questions that had been submitted…currently examining barriers for entrepreneurs, especially in the face of the housing crisis, which has hit small businesses because so many use their homes as collateral to keep their businesses functioning…the question was good, but the panel is struggling to really provide an answer…Steve Smits from the SBA is so long-winded and off target in his response it is putting the audience to sleep…the SBA has programs to try and help get loans for small businesses while trying to mitigate risk, but after two years, it seems kind of obvious that what they are doing is still not working.

UPDATE — 3:17 p.m. ET — Now the discussion is on corporate tax reform…NFIB is talking about that tax reform needs to be on the agenda for helping small business. However, the focus on tax issues is false to a certain degree, especially since numerous big businesses and multinationals are taxed as small business, of course, they get small business contracts too…it seems that the discussion on taxes is more of a benefit for big business, not small. Besides, the focus should be on improving or increasing demand so small businesses have business walking in the door, like getting federal contracts, once the economy improves and unemployment subsides, perhaps then we can look at tax reform…I am so tired of the tax debate because it seems like that is the only way to help small business, but as we know, tax cuts or tax reform does not help nor does it create jobs.

UPDATE — 3:32 p.m. ET — Discussion has turned to how local community groups can work more with FDIC, which is slightly more interesting than the rules and regulations governing FDIC and how they regulate banks…I have to be honest, that part made me doze off…

Now John Harwood just totally changed subjects to trade issues with China in light of President Hu of China impending visit with President Obama next week. The panel seems to agree, at those willing to comment, that greater regulation with China is needed…

Now, besides lending, the panel is looking at what can be done for job creation…NFIB says remove payroll tax and the government should not be spending more…I say, federal contracts, dummies!!! It is deficit neutral and will benefit small businesses more than anything…excuse me, I need to run outside and scream!

UPDATE — 3:44 p.m. ET — The panel discussion has now turned to how important small businesses are to the economy and the country and how small business is just as important to job creation as big business…I say small businesses are more important for job creation.

The panel has ended..Shelia Bair is speaking again…the problem with these panels are that no real solutions were proposed or even really debated, it was just more discussion on what we already know…

Now the SBA Administrator Karen Mills will speak, which thrills me to no end, as she is about as exciting as a bowl of lukewarm oatmeal.

UPDATE — 3:51 p.m. ET — So what this forum really covered today has really been nothing more than the same discussion that has been taking place over the past two years…several government representatives here today have been talking about progress that has been made, but where is the discussion on the solutions? This ongoing verbal masturbation does not help the real small businesses that are struggling to survive day in and day out…hearing the same old talking points is frustrating, especially when the agencies or government officials are not open to taking steps and taking on new ideas that will actually make a difference…

Karen Mills is still talking; I have heard her give this speech before, she just repeats talking points…there is no real substance, if the government actually put as much effort into working with small businesses as they did to try and convince everyone that they are working with small businesses, our economy would not be in trouble.

This concludes today’s session and liveblog.