The U.S. economy expanded at a 3.2 percent clip in the fourth quarter of 2013 – down from the third quarter’s 4.1 percent growth rate. Still, that’s good for a second-half growth rate of 3.7 percent – the economy’s best second-half performance since 2003.

Good news right?

Eh … not judging by the food stamp rolls.

Also 2013’s first-half performance was abysmal – which resulted in slowed growth compared to the previous year.

America’s gross domestic product – or total economic output – grew by only 1.9 percent from the previous year, well below 2012’s 2.8 percent growth rate (and it’s exceedingly likely these numbers will be revised downward in the coming months).

Up is better than down, though … and one bright spot in the fourth quarter data was a big jump in personal consumption (and a decline in inventories). However we’d stop short of agreeing with theĀ The Wall Street Journal‘s contention that “Americans largely withstood a payroll-tax increase in the earlier part of the year and benefited from an improving labor market.”

Last time we checked declining growth wasn’t a sign of “withstanding” anything … it was a sign that tax hikes suppressed growth.

Seriously … imagine what the economy could have done in 2013 had Republicans and Democrats in Washington, D.C. not jacked up taxes?

Anyway, can the second-half 2013 growth be sustained?

Experts aren’t overly optimistic – citing a net trade boost and reduced consumer demand moving forward.

“Enjoy the Q4 GDP surge – it won’t last into 2014,” the website Zero Hedge notes.

The money-printers at the U.S. Federal Reserve are optimistic, though. They’re projected growth of 2.8 – 3.2 percent next year.