Marketing in a downturn. There's been no shortage of ink spilled examining "The New Thrift," as Time magazine calls it. But the Economist has a nice essay on how increasingly thrifty consumers have forced marketers to change their tune: "There will need to be a move from passion to compassion in marketing," reckons John Gerzema of Young & Rubicam, a marketing-services firm. For more on recession strategies check out our story here.

Bad news for Bank of America customers. If you're carrying a balance on a credit card issued by Bank of America, prepare to be outraged. The WSJ reports that, starting in June, BOA will begin raising rates for millions of customers that carry a balance on their cards. One BOA customer had her rates nearly doubled to 13 percent. In the coming months, you can certainly expect more of this from card providers -- new legislation that restricts credit card companies from some rate increases doesn't kick in until July 2010.

A few suggestions for Karen Mills. Anita Campbell at Small Business Trends has some recommendations for new SBA head Karen Mills. Rather than focus on SBA loans, which the vast majority of small businesses don't use, Campell suggests that Mills should focus on other ways to make the agency helpful. Campbell's tips read like a laundry list of perennial small company complaints. She suggests simplifying regulations and bureaucracy, reducing the small business tax burden, boosting government contracts, and making health care more affordable.

Could VCs topple the financial system? That's the ludicrous worry coming out of the Obama administration. James Freeman, in this WSJ editorial, laughs off concerns that VC funds could pose systemic risks to the economy. And Freeman wonders why Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner suggested to Congress that large VC funds should be registered with the SEC. (The SEC, after all, did little to protect investors from our current crisis.) Freeman, arguing that limiting VCs would hinder innovation, makes some excellent points: "The entire venture capital industry is smaller than the Madoff fraud. VCs invest a total of $30 billion each year, far less than one-tenth of 1% of U.S. financial transactions. Venture investors -- affluent individuals and institutions -- are putting up equity and know that they can lose it all."

Welcome to the golden era of networking. With the job market increasingly shaky, the New York Times says 2009 could be the golden era of networking. Since last fall, Vincent Lauria, the 29-year-old organizer of the Silicon Valley NewTech Meetup Group says he's seen the club's ranks swell 75 percent to 3,500, and attendance at his monthly event has tripled. LinkedIn, for its part, has seen membership increase 48 percent, and recommendations for friends or colleagues are up 65 percent from December. Google and Boeing have even hired consultants to instruct employees how to network within their own companies.

Big energy bills? Could be the state you live in. According to the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council's Energy Cost Index 2009, your energy costs are essentially a function of the state in which you live. The Wall Street Journal reports that prices are based on factors including your state's economic growth, investment in exploration, and government regulations and taxes. Rhode Island, Alaska, and Connecticut round out the list as the priciest states. For more information on how to cut energy costs, read on at here.

Toxic assets may soon be available to all Americans. Would you buy Bailout Bonds? The New York Times reports this morning that Washington is encouraging major investment firms to create bailout funds, which would allow individual investors to participate in, and possibly profit from, attempts to get banks' troubled assets off the books. The logic seems more than a bit specious. For one, if the nation's largest banks don't want these assets, why would regular Americans?

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