The nation’s economy expanded at a robust 4.9 percent annual rate from July through September as Americans defied higher prices, rising interest rates and widespread forecasts of a recession to spend at a brisk pace. Retired Ripon College economist Paul Schoofs is surprised. “I definately would have thought you were kidding me if you had told me six months ago that would be the number,” Schoofs told WFDL news. “In fact I expected to see slowly declining GDP numbers.” The Commerce Department said the economy expanded last quarter at the fastest pace in nearly two years and more than twice the 2.1 percent annual rate of the previous quarter. The report on the nation’s gross domestic product, the economy’s total output of goods and services, showed that consumers drove the acceleration, ramping up their spending on everything from cars to restaurant meals.