“It probably forestalls any increase in unemployment, but it’s certainly not enough to generate any declines in unemployment,” Mr. Zandi said.
The Fed said Wednesday that it will keep its benchmark interest rate near zero until the unemployment rate drops below 6.5 percent. Forecasts by both the Fed and the Congressional Budget Office do not see the jobless rate falling below that level this year or next.
In his widely read Washington Post blog, “The Incredible Stagnant U.S. Economy,” economic analyst Neil Irwin said the first quarter’s 2.5 percent economic-growth rate — almost one point below expectations, showed that we’re “still stuck in the muck.”
Gross domestic product growth is not expanding “fast enough to spur the robust recovery that the country needs,” he writes.
If this situation persists or worsens this year and next, the midterm races could turn out to be a more compelling referendum on President Obama’s economic policies. In fact, GOP officials are already talking about making the weak economy the centerpiece of their midterm election strategy, urging GOP candidates to pound the Democrat-controlled Senate and the administration for their failure to come to grips with this issue.
Moreover, the grass-roots political dynamics are going to be very different for the Democrats in 2014 than they were in 2012.
Voter turnout will be significantly lower, as it usually is in midterm elections. Mr. Obama’s base will not be streaming to the polls in the same record numbers for congressional races. It will be an election driven on the margins by voters who are angry over the economy, fewer jobs, flat incomes, sharply rising health care costs and insurance premiums, gas prices, gun control and maybe the outcome of the immigration debate.
Mr. Obama’s mediocre job-approval score is polling around 50 percent, with 44 percent of Americans disapproving, an embarrassing grade at the start of a second term. It’s not very hard to imagine his numbers falling below that, especially if things aren’t seen to be improving in the sixth year of his presidency.
Americans are by nature impatient. All they ask of their leaders is to find the problem and fix it, and they’ve given Mr. Obama and the Democrats plenty of time do that, without any significant results.
The midterm elections will be their next chance to send the president and Congress a message that their patience has come to an end.
Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.