Donald Lambro

Declining U.S. exports plunged by $27 billion, or nearly 6 percent in the last quarter. The richest economy in the world is selling less abroad for a number of reasons, but the biggest obstacle is Obama's job-killing resistance to new trade expansion agreements.

Businesses, too, were slashing inventories by $40 billion amid growing signs of a precipitous slowdown, adding new downward pressure on future orders that were reflected in declining fourth quarter final sales.

Capital spending was already falling in the third quarter, the first decline in over three years.

And let's not forget that as Obama enters his fifth year in office, many states are still suffering from in recession-leaning unemployment levels:

California, the most populated state in the country, 9.8 percent; Florida, 8 percent; Georgia, 8.6 percent; Illinois, 8.7 percent; Nevada, 10.2 percent; North Carolina, 9.2 percent; South Carolina, 8.4 percent.

Does this sound like "a solid recovery"?

People who are unemployed or underemployed mean less consumer spending and lower revenues that drive up federal budget deficits. That's not going to change anytime soon.

"The number of unemployed persons, at 12.2 million, was little changed in December," the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Jan. 4.

But labor force participation is much lower today than when Obama took office, a major factor in the economy's underlying weakness, says University of Maryland business economist Peter Morici.

Factor in "discouraged adults and others working part-time that would prefer full time work, the unemployment rate is 14.4 percent," Morici says.

The White House and its allies blamed the economy's sharp decline on the looming budget cuts, but there is a lot of smoke and mirrors behind that excuse. The big cuts are yet to come, if Congress does not avert the budget-cutting sequester before March 1.

The defense industries have been cutting jobs, largely in anticipation of Pentagon cutbacks, but a spurt in higher defense spending in the third quarter pushed GDP to over 3 percent. Of course, that level of spending was in the final analysis unsustainable.

We can't spend our way into prosperity, though that has been Obama's core stimulus policy prescription throughout his presidency that has pushed us to the brink of another recession -- or the likelihood of four more years of sub-par growth, high unemployment and an economy in decline.

"The economy has less momentum going into 2013 than initially thought, making it vulnerable to external shocks," warns Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group.

But the worst is yet to come. The "fiscal cliff" deal that Obama signed into law last month, pushing the top income tax rates to Clinton-era levels and raising the tax on capital gains and dividends will further weaken the economy.

The 2 percentage point payroll tax cut was rescinded, taking a bigger bite out of every workers paycheck at a time when the economy is still in a nosedive.

Nevertheless, Obama apologists are denying that the economy is in bad shape, characterizing the fourth quarter GDP rate as an anomaly. "I don't think anything has fundamentally changed in the economy," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics.

NBC's nightly news with Brian Williams chose to ignore the story altogether Wednesday night, deciding this was of no interest to the American people.

A half hour in an unemployment line might change his mind.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.