Wonkbook: Here’s what you need to know about that thing the Fed didn’t do

September 19, 2013
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(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The big economic story today is something that didn't happen: The Fed did not "taper".If you are a normal human being, your next question is, "what's a taper"? (Actually, you might be asking "What is the Fed?" If so, you want to read Neil Irwin's 'Nine questions about the Federal Reserve you were too embarrassed to ask'.)

Here's the deal: The Fed is doing two things right now to stimulate the economy. One is holding their interest rates pretty much at 0%. The other is buying $85 billion in housing and treasury bonds each month in order to try and pump money into the economy.

At some point, the Fed intends to begin backing off these policies. But they only want to do it once the economy is strong enough, and even then, they want to do it slowly, so the economy has time to adjust.

To put it differently, rather than cut off their support, they want to "taper" it.

The expectation was that the Fed would "taper" by modestly reducing its spending on bonds, going from $85 billion a month to, say, $75 billion. They didn't.

Why didn't they taper? A few reasons. One is that the economy simply hasn't been that strong in recent months. Job growth is weak and borrowing costs are rising. Another is that the Fed is looking forward, and they see Congress preparing to kick the (already modest) recovery in the face by possibly shutting down the government or, worse, defaulting on the debt.

Some of this is the Fed's fault. As economist Justin Wolfers writes, "Think back to the June press conference, and you’ll recall Chairman Bernanke signaled that the Fed was thinking about tapering quantitative easing. Taper-talk came to dominate the financial headlines...markets over-reacted, interpreting the Fed as being less committed to easy monetary policy in the longer run. Long-term interest rates rose, mortgage rates rose, financial conditions tightened. All of this was the result of a needless miscommunication."

So, nice job Fed. But, on the bright side, at least the Fed decided to back off on the taper. Cue Wolfers: "We’re at a moment when inflation is well below the Fed’s inflation target, unemployment remains unconscionably high, Congress is threatening to either shut down the government or default, and the recovery is faltering. There is simply no sensible approach to monetary policy that would suggest that this was the moment to take your foot off the gas."

Wonkbook's Number of the Day: $0 billion. That's how much the Fed decided to reduce its monthly bond purchases. No taper!

Wonkbook's Top 5 Stories: 1) no taper; 2) the shutdown gets real; 3) how fast will health spending grow?; 4) of fracking and fridges; and 5) Department of Labor boosts same-sex rights.

1) Top story: Why the Fed didn't taper

Fed doesn't taper. "The Federal Reserve will continue its extraordinary efforts to prop up the nation’s recovery with billions of dollars in stimulus, officials said Wednesday, essentially declaring the economy too weak to stand on its own. Stock markets soared to record highs as investors welcomed the unexpected announcement of more stimulus. But the Fed’s message about the recovery was not so rosy, and officials again cut their forecasts for economic growth." Ylan Q. Mui in The Washington Post.

Primary sources: Here's the FOMC statement. Here are its projections for economic growth.

The news caught Wall Street by surprise. " On market closing, the Standard & Poor's index and  Dow Jones Industrial Average were at record highs, with the S&P up 1.2 percent and the Dow climbing 147 points, or 1 percent...Meanwhile, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell 0.17 percentage points to 2.69 percent." Ylan Q. Mui in The Washington Post.

Here's one of the most efficient ways to get up-to-speed on the monetary-policy news. Read The Washington Post's liveblog. The New York Times's is good, too.

Or you can start with this explainer: Everything you need to know about the decision to delay the taperMatthew O'Brien in The Atlantic.

Why didn’t the Fed taper? Because Congress is horrible. "That was a recurring theme in the communications that emanated from the Fed and its chairman, Ben Bernanke, Wednesday afternoon. Indeed, taken together, it is a sense of frustration coming out of the nation's central bank. He is in effect yelling, from one end of Constitution Avenue to the other, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING???" We're busting our tails over here to try to keep this economy on track, and you clowns can't do your jobs well enough to avoid messing the whole thing up."...First, in the Fed policy committee's formal statement, it noted that "fiscal policy is restraining economic growth" and that there has been improvement in the economy over the last year "taking into account the extent of federal fiscal retrenchment."" Neil Irwin in The Washington Post.

@ezraklein: So basically Fed wants to taper but is worried Congress is going to kick the economy in the face

Yes, it will be Yellen. "Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Janet Yellen is the leading candidate to be President Obama’s nominee to lead the Fed as chairman, a White House official said Wednesday. Barring any unexpected development, that likely means that Yellen will get the nomination, perhaps as soon as next week...While some speculated in light of Summers’s withdrawal the president may consider other candidates, it appears he is focusing on Yellen." Zachary A. Goldfarb in The Washington Post.

Explainer: Nine questions about the Federal Reserve you were too embarrassed to askNeil Irwin in The Washington Post.

In related finreg news: SEC narrowly votes to require firms to disclose CEO pay ratios. "The Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday narrowly approved a plan that would require companies to disclose how much more their chief executives are paid than their other employees, advancing an initiative that has been years in the making. The panel’s two Republican commissioners — Daniel Gallagher and Michael Piwowar — voted against the proposal, siding with business groups that cast the initiative as a costly burden that is of little use to shareholders. They said the proposal is an attempt to shame corporations into reining in executive pay by forcing companies to calculate compensation in a way that is designed to yield eye-popping results." Dina ElBoghdady in The Washington Post.

@jimtankersley: "No taper" screams ring across the WaPo business pod. Wish you all could hear this.

Hedge Fund Titan’s New Bet: "Revenge Of The Regulators." "One of the country’s best-known hedge fund managers, Whitney Tilson, is making a big bet that government regulatory agencies will turn his short positions into big paydays. That is the gist of Tilson’s current favorite investment theme, “revenge of the regulators.” The Kase Capital head said in an interview that he’s taking short positions on companies that he calls “bad for humanity” — and also ripe for regulatory intervention. That action could ultimately send these companies’ stock into free fall and Tilson’s portfolio through the roof." Mariah Summers in BuzzFeed.

Mortgage lending reaches 5-yr. high. "The report, which was released Wednesday by central-bank researchers, found that lenders originated nearly 9.8 million mortgages in 2012, up 38% from 7.1 million in 2011, which had been a 16-year low. Last year's levels, however, remained far short of lending volumes reached during the housing bubble and even before the bubble over a decade ago." Nick Timiraos in The Wall Street Journal.

New home-building shows strength. "U.S. housing starts rose 0.9% from July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 891,000, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That was less than the 915,000 forecast by economists and below the five-year high of just over 1 million they hit in March...Building permits, an indicator of future construction, fell 3.8% in August overall." Jonathan House in The Wall Street Journal.

@morningmoneyben: Arguments against taper now are overwhelmingly stronger than to start it now. Amazing expectations got so out of whack

IP: Taper tiger. "The most important restraint on the Fed was the unexpected effect on financial markets of a prospective change in monetary stance. The central bank had always emphasised that tapering did not mean tightening...Nonetheless, investors radically repriced their expectations of Fed policy and fled positions predicated on a policy of QE ever after. Bond yields and mortgage rates have shot up about a percentage point since May; the housing market has cooled. Mr Bernanke fretted this “rapid tightening of financial conditions in recent months could have the effect of slowing growth”, a problem that would be “exacerbated if conditions tighten further”." Greg Ip in The Economist.

@davidmwessel: So the bond market (tighter financial conditions) actually helped persuade the Fed not to taper yet.

SOLTAS: This Fed is the economy's hero. "Here’s the most important thing anybody can tell you about the taper: It’s not the taper that matters, but the signal the taper sends. By the same logic, the Federal Reserve’s decision today to delay the taper matters little on its own. What counts for everything is the signal: This Fed is committed to restoring vigorous economic growth...What makes it matter is the information the taper reveals to investors and businesses about the future path of monetary policy. A Fed that’s ready to taper now, the logic goes, is one that’s on the margin more hawkish. It’s willing to raise interest rates sooner and more quickly, even amid unimpressive economic conditions. That the Fed has decided to delay the taper implies a more dovish “reaction function” for the coming years." Evan Soltas in Bloomberg.

WOLFERS: Talking up the taper, and then not tapering, was a huge communications error. "We’re at a moment when inflation is well below the Fed’s inflation target, unemployment remains unconscionably high, Congress is threatening to either shut down the government or default, and the recovery is faltering. There is simply no sensible approach to monetary policy that would suggest that this was the moment to take your foot off the gas...The point is that “taper off” doesn't really represent an interesting new policy easing, but rather its main function is to undo the damaging tightening in financial conditions that occurred following the initial taper talk." Justin Wolfers in Bloomberg.

@ryanavent: 1) Shame they started running their big mouths in the first place. 2) No taper would be nicer if they hadn't revised down projections.

SMITH: What caused the taper delay? Low inflation. "The economic projections the Fed offered to help explain its surprise decision showed that inflation is running lower than the Fed expected in June and is likely to continue to do so throughout 2014. On the other hand unemployment is doing if anything mildly better than expected...The Fed’s shocking departure from the expected came at a time of surprisingly low inflation – while periods of similar surprisingly high unemployment rarely produced similar reactions." Karl Smith in Forbes.

@TheStalwart: The lesson from today is that Ben Bernanke didn't taper because #YOLO (Did I do that right?)

DELONG: Yellen is now the best choice to lead the Fed. "I have watched her from a distance since she left the corner office next to mine at the Berkeley Economics department and moved across San Francisco Bay to become president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in 2004 – and she has shown a better understanding of the state of the economy and the impact of economic policies than most of her peers at the Fed...When I first saw Ms Yellen up close and in action, it was late-1988. She was a professor at Berkeley and taught me something important, something that I had not previously known and would not have thought of on my own. In a conference room at the Brookings Institution, she explained just how the welfare benefits of lowering unemployment were of much greater value than the mere boost in production it brings. For example, it also means fewer people in the wrong type of job." J. Bradford DeLong in The Financial Times.

@DavidBeckworth: Tho happy to see no taper, fact that it and every FOMC outcome is often an unknown is problematic. Need more predictability in mon policy.

JOHNSON: Yellen's credentials to lead the Fed. "Not only is Ms. Yellen perfectly well qualified to lead the Fed, she might be the best qualified potential Fed chief ever. If Ms. Yellen were a man, we would not be having this conversation. No other contender to lead the Fed stands even a remote chance of being confirmed. And if the White House really wants a smooth path to confirmation, the strategy is simple: propose Ms. Yellen as chairwoman and Thomas Hoenig as vice chairman." Simon Johnson in The New York Times.

Music recommendations interlude: Andrew Bird, "Imitosis."

Top opinion

PORTER: America's sinking middle class. "In 2010, the Department of Commerce published a study about what it would take for different types of families to achieve the aspirations of the middle class — which it defined as a house, a car or two in the garage, a vacation now and then, decent health care and enough savings to retire and contribute to the children’s college education. It concluded that the middle class has become a much more exclusive club. Even two-earner families making almost $81,000 in 2008 — substantially more than the family median of about $60,000 reported by the Census — would have a much tougher time acquiring the attributes of the middle class than in 1990." Eduardo Porter in The New York Times.

DANZIGER: Mismeasuring poverty. "The official measure is misleading — it measures only cash income, and it does not count benefits from many programs that help the poor. If they were counted, the rate would be closer to 11 percent...Lowering poverty means both recognizing the successes of safety net programs we now have and devising new policies that can spread the gains generated by economic growth. If we don’t, then we will continue to face poverty rates that are unacceptably high, and wonder why we can’t do anything about them." Sheldon H. Danziger in The New York Times.

CARROLL AND FRAKT: The shortfalls of the Republican 'replace' plan. "Today, a group of House conservatives presented their version of a replacement plan, endorsed by the Republican Study Committee. In short, it throws poor Americans under the bus...There are two problems with the House plan though. The first is that it will obviously cost a lot of money. How much is not clear, but it won’t be insignificant. How will that be paid for? The second is that a tax deduction is much more valuable to someone who makes a lot of money than someone who makes little. But people with large incomes aren’t the ones who need help affording coverage. It’s those at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum who need the most assistance. Because of their low marginal tax rates, a tax deduction is of very little help." Aaron Carroll and Austin Frakt in The Incidental Economist blog.

RAHMSTORF: The known knowns of climate change. "An extraordinary, if underappreciated, feature of the IPCC’s reports is that, though many different scientists have worked on them over the past 23 years, the fundamental conclusions have not changed. This reflects an overwhelming consensus among scientists from around the world. Polls of climate researchers, as well as analysis of thousands of scientific publications, consistently show a 97-98% consensus that human-caused emissions are causing global warming." Stefan Ramstorf in Project Syndicate.

WESSEL: Could we finally do long-term deficit reduction the right way now? "This bickering boosts the chances of an Oct. 1 shutdown. Potomac Research analyst Greg Valliere puts the odds at 25%, up from 10% a month ago. Chris Krueger at Guggenheim Partners is up to 40%. A few-day shutdown is embarrassing and inconvenient. Republicans know Mr. Obama might let it happen...The problem isn't the subject of the current tussle, the one-third of federal spending that requires annual approval. The problem is that today's tax code won't yield enough money to cover health and retirement benefits that current law promises." David Wessel in The Wall Street Journal.

SWAGEL: Unfinished business after the financial crisis. "Among the options are requiring money market funds to provide more precise information on the value of their holdings so that investors can see more clearly that these vehicles involve risk and are not guaranteed like bank deposits, or having the money market funds impose a penalty on investors seeking to withdraw cash when the funds’ assets are illiquid, like in times of market stress." Phillip Swagel in The New York Times.

DIONNE: Why Republicans want a shutdown. "The coming battles over budgets, the debt ceiling, a government shutdown and Obamacare are not elements of a large political game. They involve a fundamental showdown over the role of government in stemming rising inequality and making our country a fairer and more decent place...[L]ittle of what we’re hearing offers enlightenment as to why this big argument is happening in the first place, and why it matters." E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post.

Sequels that Wonkbook never wants to see interlude: Snakes on a...Space Mission?

2) This shutdown thing is starting to get real

OMB to agencies: Plan for a shutdown. "Federal agencies have been told to begin planning for a partial government shutdown starting Oct. 1, including taking a fresh look at which employees would stay on the job and which would be sent home, if a funding agreement isn’t reached by then. Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia M. Burwell on Tuesday issued a memo ordering agencies to update plans they had made in similar past situations of budgetary gridlock." Eric Yoder in The Washington Post.

Explainer: Everything you need to know about why the government might shut downDylan Matthews in The Washington Post.

The White House doesn’t think it can prevent a government shutdown. "This is a good catch by the Wall Street Journal's Damian Paletta. Back in 2011, the White House's line was that it was simply unthinkable that Republicans would let the government shutdown or the debt ceiling collapse...Paletta notes that the White House isn't trying that trick this time. If anything, they're trying to convince the world that Republicans really, seriously, might pull the trigger. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is using words like "nervous" and "anxious."" Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

House cancels recess due to budget deadline. "With a budget deadline approaching on Sept. 30, the House is canceling a week-long recess scheduled for next week and will reconvene next Wednesday. The House is scheduled to adjourn for the week this Friday after approving its version of a continuing resolution, then will be back in Washington in time to vote on whatever transpires after the Senate takes up the issue." Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

Public divided on raising debt limit, but sees serious fallout for economy. "Forty-nine percent of those surveyed say Obama is doing too little to compromise with Republicans, but 64 percent say the Republicans are doing too little. Only about a fifth say Republicans are doing about the right amount to find common ground with the president, compared with just over a third who say Obama is doing about enough...Overall, the public is split almost evenly over whether the debt ceiling should be raised, 46 percent saying yes and 43 percent saying no. But the two parties are mirror images of one another, with 62 percent of Democrats saying it should be raised and 61 percent of Republican saying it should not." Dan Balz and Scott Clement in The Washington Post.

...Meanwhile, sequestration is becoming more politically popular. "A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows 43 percent of Americans now approve of the across-the-board spending cuts that took effect earlier this year, after Congress was unable to reach a deal to find other areas to cut. Another 50 percent of Americans disapprove. In May, as the spending cuts were taking effect, just 35 percent of Americans approved of the sequester, while 56 percent disapproved. Over that span, the percentage of people who "strongly disapprove" of the sequester has dropped from 39 percent to 30 percent." Aaron Blake in The Washington Post.

House GOP ties government funding to health law. "GOP leaders said the House would vote Friday on a bill to fund federal agencies for the first 2 1/2 months of the fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, but strip all health-law funding...The measure would then go to the Democrat-controlled Senate, which is likely to remove the health-law provisions and send a simple government-funding measure back to the House. Conservatives there would then face the question of whether to pass the bill and keep the government open, or go through another round of legislative battle." Janet Hook and Kristina Peterson in The Wall Street Journal.

Boehner has capitulated to his hard right. "After three years of cajoling, finessing and occasionally strong-arming his fitful conservative majority, Speaker John A. Boehner waved the white flag on Wednesday, surrendering to demands from his right flank that he tie money to keep the government open after Sept. 30 to stripping President Obama’s health care law of any financing. Mr. Boehner knows that the plan he unveiled cannot pass the Senate, and that it may prove unwise politically and economically. His leadership team pressed just last week for an alternative. But with conservative forces uniting against him, he ultimately saw no alternative but to capitulate — and few good options to stop a government shutdown in two weeks." Jonathan Weisman in Politico.

Forget about a government shutdown. The real risk: the debt ceiling. "It won’t be pretty, but that so-called clean CR could pass the House with roughly 180 Republican votes with the remainder coming from the Democratic side of the aisle, according to senior GOP sources. White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors met with the House Democratic Caucus on Wednesday to walk through government funding scenarios. Although some Democrats are pushing to turn off the sequester as part of any CR deal, White House officials believe they can count on between 40 and 50 Democratic votes for a clean CR at the $986 billion level, giving House leaders enough to reach the key 217 vote level." Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan in Politico.

In the meantime, here's another cut the White House will reject. "The years-long fight over federal funding for food stamps is set for another showdown Thursday when House Republicans plan to vote on a proposal to dramatically curtail aid to needy Americans. Every Democrat is expected to vote against the proposal. The GOP measure would slash about $39 billion over the next decade for food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is providing an average of $133 in monthly aid to more than 47 million Americans, according to a recent government report. The proposal differs sharply from a Senate plan passed this summer that would cut roughly $4.5 billion in SNAP money mostly by reducing administrative expenses." Ed O'Keefe in The Washington Post.

Monetary-policy interlude: The Fed says no taper. We say more tapirs!

3) What CMS thinks about health spending growth

Lower rise in health-care spending predicted. "Total U.S. health-care spending will jump by 6.1% next year when key provisions of the federal overhaul law take effect, a slower growth pace than previously had been expected, federal number-crunchers projected Wednesday. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the rise would result from more Americans gaining insurance coverage and using more care. But it said the growth would be slower than the 7.4% pace anticipated a year ago, in part because of a June 2012 Supreme Court decision that allowed states to avoid expanding their Medicaid programs as envisioned under the health overhaul." Louise Radnofsky in The Wall Street Journal.

But is health spending slowing for good? Medicare’s number-crunchers aren’t so sure. ""Although the growth rate going forward is faster than what it has been during the recession, it's also slower than what it's been in previous years," says Gigi A. Cuckler, an economist who lead the Office of the Actuary's research, published today in the journal Health Affairs...Going forward — and even accounting for the health law's massive insurance expansion — the forecasters expect costs to grow more slowly, at an average rate of 5.8 percent between 2012 and 2022. That will mean, by 2022, we will spend 19.9 percent of our economy, or $5 trillion, on health-care costs.Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

RSC reveals Obamacare replacement plan. "The bill from the Republican Study Committee would fully repeal the 2010 law and replace it with an expansion of health savings accounts, medical liability reform and the elimination of restrictions on purchasing insurance across state lines...[T]he bill could set Republicans up for political attacks by scrapping popular provisions in ObamaCare like a prohibition on denying health insurance to people with pre-existing medical conditions." Russell Berman in The Hill.

Reaping profits after assisting on Obamacare. "That means boom times for what might be called an Obamacare cottage industry, providing work for dozens of former administration and mostly Democratic Congressional officials whose immersion in health policy minutiae, and friendships, make them invaluable to private business...Of the “revolving door lobbyists” profiled by the center, those specializing in health care account for 12 percent, more than any other economic sector." Sheryl Gay Stolberg in The New York Times.

Walgreens moves workers to private health-care exchange. "Walgreens said on Wednesday that it is moving 160,000 workers to a new health-insurance model, joining a growing list of large employers seeking to control costs by having employees shop for coverage in a private marketplace. The drugstore chain said that beginning in 2014, it will give employees a set amount of money to choose health insurance coverage from a wide range of offerings in a fast-expanding private online marketplace run by Aon Hewitt, a benefits firm." Michael A. Fletcher in The Washington Post.

The small end of Ted Kennedy’s big CLASS Act dream. "This is the story of the CLASS Act, or, the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act, and how the largest part of the health law to be repealed came to an end. Enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act, it was meant to create a long-term insurance plan that would be run by the government, with optional enrollment, to cover living assistance costs that Medicare and Medicaid don't include. These would be things like home-care aides, accessible transportation and home modifications. The CLASS Act, to the delight of congressional Republicans and pun enthusiasts, was dismissed in October 2011, after actuaries at Health and Human Services couldn't figure out a way to make the program financially viable. Their worry was that with the program being optional, only those who were sick and anticipating needing long-term care would enroll. It would enter a death spiral, with premiums becoming prohibitively expensive." Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

GOP report blasts health-law navigators. "More safeguards are needed to ensure thieves don't impersonate government-funded "navigators" and nab financial details from people trying to sign up for health insurance, according to a report from Republican House investigators. The report raised concerns that official navigators, who get federal funding under the 2010 health law, won't have government IDs or other documentation to prove they are authorized to help enroll people for health insurance. The federal government won't maintain a list of authorized navigators or helpers, making it difficult for consumers to be confident when handing over sensitive personal information such as Social Security numbers, the report said." Amy Schatz in The Wall Street Journal.

Oh my god this is so great interlude: The difference between "funny" and "lol."

4) Of fracking and fridges, but not at the same time

Fracking may not be as bad for the climate as we thought. "The study concluded that the methane leakage rates from these wells were fairly low — lower, in fact, than the EPA's estimates. The EPA had estimated that about 1.2 million tons of methane were probably seeping out of these wells. But the researchers found that only around 957,000 tons of methane were coming out. What's more, the study found that new techniques required by the EPA to capture methane after wells have been drilled were very effective at minimizing certain leaks. (These techniques are known as "green completions.") By contrast, other parts of the production process not regulated by the EPA, such as valves and chemical pumps, were leaking more methane than previously thought." Brad Plumer in The Washington Post.

Fridges use way more energy than you think. ""I know I live an energy-intensive lifestyle," he writes. "Americans on average use 13,395 kWh/year (IEA data for 2010), which is nearly three times what the typical South African uses and 100 times the average Nigerian. But I was still pretty shocked to see how my new single-family fridge compares with an average citizen in the six Power Africa countries."" Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

Awesome photography interlude: Giraffes, silhouettes, full moon.

5) Department of Labor boosts same-sex rights

Same-sex couples have universal right to equal benefits, administration says. "Legally married same-sex couples enjoy the same federal rights as other married couples when it comes to pensions, 401(k)s, health plans and other employee benefits, even if they live in states that don’t recognize their union, the Labor Department said Wednesday...The agency said the terms “spouse” and “marriage” in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act should be read to include same-sex couples regardless of where they currently reside. That means a gay couple that marries legally in Minnesota or New York can still participate equally in retirement and other federal employee benefits if they move to Florida, where gay marriage is not legal. The Associated Press.

Primary source: Department of Labor release.

Reading material interlude: The best sentences Wonkblog read today.

Wonkblog Roundup

Kids don’t die nearly as much as they did just 20 years agoDylan Matthews.

Pandora just got a little worse for musiciansLydia DePillis.

A Republican senator has a tax plan to grow the 47 percentDylan Matthews.

Why didn’t the Fed taper? Because Congress is horribleNeil Irwin.

Everything you need to know about why the government might shut downDylan Matthews.

The White House doesn’t think it can prevent a government shutdownEzra Klein.

Nine questions about the Federal Reserve you were too embarrassed to askNeil Irwin.

Fracking may not be as bad for the climate as we thoughtBrad Plumer.

Liveblog: The latest news out of Ben Bernanke and the Federal ReserveNeil Irwin.

After seeing this graph, you’ll never look at your refrigerator the same way againEzra Klein.

Markets jump to record highs on Fed decision to keep stimulusYlan Q. Mui.

The small end of Ted Kennedy’s big CLASS Act dream. Sarah Kliff.

Is health spending slowing for good? Medicare’s number-crunchers aren’t so sureSarah Kliff.

Et Cetera

The story you'd have otherwise missed: In the nation’s 100 largest metro areas, more than half the recovery has come from exportsNiraj Chokshi in The Washington Post.

Big news Wonkbook can't fit today: Obama administration weighs Iran talks at UNCarol E. Lee and Jay Solomon in The Wall Street Journal.

Former Defense Secretaries critical of Obama approach on SyriaThom Shanker and Lauren D'Avolio in The New York Times.

Obama comment on immigration draws anger, frustrationDavid Nakamura in The Washington Post.

Asian newcomers drive immigrationNeil Shah in The Wall Street Journal.

Wellesley unveils new cost-of-college calculatorDavid Leonhardt in The New York Times.

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.

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UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
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Brad Plumer · September 18, 2013