Today, five years later, the United States and other nations are still struggling with the task of recovering from the worst financial crisis since the 1930s – and formulating how to prevent a similar disaster from happening in the future.
The economy, despite massive revival efforts, is growing only tepidly – a problem due in part to lingering effects of the crisis. For example:
•One out of 5 mortgage borrowers today remains "under water," with loan balances larger than the home's market value.
•Unemployment in the US still hovers at a stubbornly high 7.4 percent – significantly higher at this stage than in any other economic recovery since World War II.
••Four years after the recession's official end, the Fed continues to hold short-term interest rates near zero percent in a bid to revive the economy – a remedy unprecedented in length and magnitude in Fed history.
Such circumstances help explain why, in a new Christian Science Monitor/TIPP poll, 36 percent of Americans say the financial crisis has made the economy permanently weaker. Some 49 percent say the crisis weakened the economy, but that the problems will ultimately fade. Only 11 percent say the economy has already regained the ground lost during the crisis.
The past five years have hardly been all gloomy. The economy has improved, many debt-laden families and firms have cleaned up their books, and both corporations and regulators alike have taken major steps to make the financial system safer for the future.
Yet the task is far from finished. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act – Congress's major response to the crisis, passed in 2010 – is only starting to be implemented. By one tally, federal agencies have completed less than half of some 398 required rulemakings under that law.