Boo! Welcome to the Halloween edition of what I'm reading. Only some moderately scary stuff, I promise.
Slim pickings from the Fed
No one should have been surprised by the Federal Reserve's policy statement yesterday: practically a carbon copy of September's. The Fed will continue buying $85 billion of bonds a month as it awaits "more evidence" on the economy. Stocks and bonds sold off. I can only guess that markets were ever-hopeful for something better. Count me curious about comments that tapering is a possibility for December. It's always a possibility. I doubt it's likely. Why put lumps of coal in the Christmas stocking when the economy is limping along?
Lucky for Obama
Americans are no more familiar with the health-care law than they were in August, according to a new Gallup poll. The public still thinks the Accountable Care Act is going to make the situation worse, but the non-stop headlines about technical glitches, website crashes and cancelled policies have had no significant change on the public's view. I'm going to withhold comment.
The website Healthcare.gov went down during Kathleen Sebelius' congressional testimony yesterday. Like President Obama, the Health and Human Services Secretary is angry at the "flawed launch of Healthcare.gov," according to the Washington Post. Sebelius apologized, said we deserved better, explained that private contractors screwed up, that testing was inadequate and the problems "fixable." Like CMS director Marilyn Tavenner on Tuesday, Sebelius refused to say just how many people had signed up for a plan. "I don’t want to turn over anything that is not confirmed and reliable," she said. No, we would never want the government to disseminate inaccurate information on the ACA. (See: "If you like your plan, you can keep it."
It's official. Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, plans to put a hold on Janet Yellen's nomination to replace Ben Bernanke as Fed chief unless the Senate votes on his bill to increase the bank's transparency, according to Politico. Specifically the bill -- first introduced by his father Ron -- would authorize the Government Accountability Office to audit how the Fed implements monetary policy. Paul's standing improved during the government shutdown. (He came off as a centrist compared to Ted Cruz.) This stunt isn't going to help his reputation, except with the "Abolish the Fed" crowd.
A 12-step program for tax reform
The Tax Foundation's William McBride offers 12 steps to simplify the tax code. (You didn't think the bipartisan congressional committee was going to do that, did you?) Many of the ideas are standard conservative fare: lower tax rates on corporations and partnerships, a shift to a territorial tax system, the elimination of the alternative minimum and estate tax, etc. Then there's the idea that everyone advocates but no one wants to say, me first: reduce corporate welfare. Business leaders are quick to talk about fixing the debt, but when it comes to the $1 trillion of annual tax loopholes and carve outs, what CEO wants to sacrifice his company's exemption? A 12-step program for tax reform needs a higher power if it's going to succeed.
(Caroline Baum is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow her on Twitter.)