"We should not accept a financial system that allows the biggest banks to emerge from a crisis in record-setting shape while ordinary Americans continue to struggle," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who watched over the bank bailout as head of a special oversight panel.

This glass-half-empty-glass-half-full state of the economy has produced competing story lines about the role Obama's administration has played in getting the country to this point. Did Obama's approach validate the philosophy of spending your way out of crisis or did some of his policies actually slow the recovery?

The bank bailout, which started during the closing weeks of President George W. Bush's term, was highly unpopular but is generally credited with stabilizing the financial system.

Obama continued the program and ultimately used some of the $700 billion that had been allocated to prop up the financial system to bail out General Motors and Chrysler, a move generally accepted as a success.

Still, voters in 2009 and 2010 rebelled, and the bank bailout vote cost some lawmakers their seats.

Former Rep. Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who headed the House Financial Services Committee, noted the other day that "you don't get credit for disaster averted."

Some conservative economists say the $800 billion stimulus Obama pushed for in 2009 initially did help reverse the plunging economy, even though some liberals insist the dollar amount should have been even bigger.

But much of the credit for the current recovery, tepid as it may be, goes to the Federal Reserve. It has held short-term interests rates near zero and has undertaken a massive bond purchase program that has supported spending, lifted stocks and kept home mortgage rates at near record lows.

"The Fed was the single biggest policy move in the crisis. No question about it," said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office and top economic adviser to Republican Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign.

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