Even though consumers spent more this quarter, their dollars were largely sucked up by spiking gas and food prices. That left fewer dollars available for discretionary spending, which in turn slowed the growth rate of the national economy to 1.8 percent. Economists had expected a slowdown from the annualized rate of 3.1 percent at the end of 2010, but the first-quarter results were still a surprising disappointment. According to the Times, a widening trade deficit, decreased federal spending, and the aforementioned higher commodity prices took a serious toll on the pocketbooks of businesses and households. President Obama’s got to be hoping that next week’s job numbers will continue to improve to mitigate this bad news. Or maybe even just that we’ll keep talking about the birth certificate for a couple more days.