The 2014 midterm election is shaping up as something the United States has not seen in nearly a decade: a campaign run in a strengthening economy with deficits on the decline.
No one is popping champagne corks yet, and risks remain. But the altered terrain, if it holds, could benefit Democrats and challenge Republicans whose rise to power in the House in 2010 came via a tea party movement that blasted President Barack Obama and his party for ignoring a stagnant economy and piling up an endless run of trillion dollar deficits.
Times have changed since 2010. Barring a fresh crisis — and there are certainly a few that could arise — many economists expect growth to return to a fairly healthy level by next year as house prices and the stock market continue to rise and the jobless rate falls closer to its historic average of 5.8 percent.
In fact, however, the economy is not in such great shape. The Los Angeles Times reports:
The country's tepid growth in its gross domestic product isn't creating enough good jobs to build a strong middle class, according to a UCLA report released Wednesday.
"Growth in GDP has been positive, but not exceptional," UCLA economists wrote in their quarterly Anderson Forecast. "Jobs are growing, but not rapidly enough to create good jobs for all."
The report, which analyzed long-term trends of past recoveries, found that the long-anticipated "Great Recovery" has not yet materialized.
Real GDP growth — the value of goods and services produced after adjusting for inflation — is 15.4% below the 3% growth trend of past recoveries, wrote Edward Leamer, director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast. More robust growth will be necessary to bring this recovery in line with previous ones.
"It's not a recovery," he wrote. "It's not even normal growth. It's bad."