The day Robert Byrd became the longest-serving senator in 2006 he declared that there were four things his fellow West Virginians believed in: "God almighty, Sears Roebuck, Carter's Little Liver Pills and Robert C. Byrd—not necessarily in that order."
We all know what God almighty and Sears Roebuck are. And if you've ever been to West Virginia, you've come across the name Robert C. Byrd—every other building in the state is named for him. But lots of people may be confused by the reference to Carter's Little Liver Pills.
Carter's Little Liver Pills were first formulated shortly after the Civil War by Samuel J. Carter. They were basically a laxative whose effectiveness was provided by the chemical bisacodyl. Nothing they did improved liver functioning at all. In 1951 the Federal Trade Commission ordered the company that made them to drop the reference to liver altogether. But the brand had been around for nearly a century. Both the name and the notion that the little white pills improved the liver stuck around long enough that Senator Byrd was using the term after his 2006 reelection.
No doubt if the pills had been removed from the market altogether, many of its users would have feared the worst. They were persuaded of the pill's effectiveness in improving their health (when all it really did was encourage bowel movements). It was, as Byrd said, next to God almighty for some people.
Quantitative easing is the new Carter's Little Liver Pill. It's the God almighty of our markets, in the minds of many. And the possible death of God—or at least the Tapering of God—expected at the end of the Fed's meeting tomorrow is making this one of the closest watched market events in quite some time. But it really shouldn't be.