Sep. 18, 2013 at 10:45 AM ET
The Federal Reserve is preparing to ease the throttle on its historically easy monetary policy while the economy remains unsettled.
Growth, as measured through gross domestic product gains, has never exceeded 3 percent for any 12-month period in chairman Ben Bernanke's nearly eight year tenure.
The central bank's two key measures for gauging the success of its dual mandate leave something to be desired as well.
Unemployment has fallen to 7.3 percent, but that is in large part the product of a labor force participation rate stuck at a 35-year low. Moreover, the rate remains well above the 6.5 percent level the Fed has targeted before it will begin raising rates.
Inflation, meanwhile, is barely 2 percent—below the Fed's 2.5 percent target and indicative of an economy that is not clear of a deflation specter.
Those numbers only tell part of the story, though.
For a better look at how the economy is doing and the Fed's success in stimulating things in the latest round of quantitative easing, it's worth it to take a deeper dive into some of the measures that feed into the broader picture.
(Read more: Time to start 'taper' rotation, pro says)
Amid these economic conditions, the Fed's balance sheet has raced to $3.7 trillion, and some members are afraid there could be repercussions, such as the creation of an asset bubble in the stock market and, ultimately, inflation.
That's why the central bank's Open Market Committee is expected Wednesday to begin paring back—tapering, as stated in the minutes of a recent meeting—its $85 billion a month in bond purchases. The tapering is expected to be in the $10 billion to $15 billion a month range.
The Fed has proceeded headlong with the quantitative easing program though it's primarily a crisis tool being deployed now in a environment that, while unsteady, is far from the crisis level that triggered the first round of QE back in 2008.
(Read more: New Fed chief,whoever it is, faces trial by fire)
There's virtually no chance, though, that the Fed is going to do anything with rates.
The initial tapering talk triggered a sharp stock market sell-off amid fears that a rate increase would not be far behind, and multiple Fed officials have gone public to insist that is not the case.
The economy may be stronger but it's not that strong, at least not in the eyes of the people who make that decision.
_ By CNBC's Jeff Cox. Follow him @JeffCoxCNBCcom on Twitter.