Donald Lambro

"Political commentators have made a big deal of the budget deficit falling below $1 trillion for the first time in half a decade. But this is the real trillion-dollar deficit: a $1 trillion gap between what the United States is capable of and what it actually produces," he writes.

"It gets worse! The $1.01 trillion output gap is higher than it has been in more than a year. In the third quarter, that gap was only $914 billion. ... In other words, this deficit is getting worse, not better. And under CBO projections, it will widen again this year, as the economy grows at something below its potential," Irwin says.

"What is now a $1 trillion output gap will become a $1.2 trillion output gap, as the economy slows down ..." he adds.

As many of Obama's economic critics have been saying over the past four years, the American economy is underperforming, and the CBO says that trend will continue through 2016 and possibly beyond.

If the "CBO's projections turn out to be right, our economy has a huge problem, and it's getting worse, not better," Irwin warns.

Unemployed and underemployed Americans who are on the front lines of the underperforming Obama economy viscerally understand what they're facing, even if they do not fully understand why.

A revealing survey by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, released Thursday, finds Americans are deeply pessimistic about their economic future, and the vast majority believe things will not improve for "many years" to come.

"Nearly one in four respondents said they were laid off at some point during the past four years, and even larger numbers said they had immediate family members or close friends who were thrown out of work," the Post reported.

The poll's findings paint a deeply troubled portrait of the U.S. labor force, with many saying they've had to settle for jobs that pay far less than their pre-recession work. One-third said their salaries were cut by 30 percent or more.

The Obama administration paints a rosier picture of the economy, pointing to puny monthly job creation numbers, but it does not mention that half the jobs are lower-paying or part-time.

The bleak reality is that of the 12 million unemployed in the country, nearly 5 million Americans have been without work longer than six months.

An incredible 86 percent of those surveyed said they did not expect to see good-paying jobs ever again, or at least for many years.

When asked what kind of policies could turn the nation's economy around, many suggest tax credits to employers who hire new workers, more education and job training programs, or increased funding for public jobs.

Yet all of these proposals were major parts of Obama's failed economic stimulus program over the past four years, with little to show for it.

Unemployment rose last month to nearly 8 percent, and the Commerce Department said that in the last three months of 2012, the economy stopped growing.

If you think the president will soon be proposing policies to expand the economy and reduce unemployment levels, or offer a budget to end five years of unprecedented deficits, don't hold your breath.

Obama has given us no indication he will be offering a serious jobs plan in the future, and for the third straight year he's missed the deadline for sending a budget up to Capitol Hill. The White House earlier this week refused to say when he would release his 2014 spending plan.

Four years after he was sworn into office, he remains a bystander in the most critical economic issues of our time.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.