Anniversary of the Great Recession: What's Changed, What Hasn't

Five years later, a look at how politics, pop culture and the economy have (and haven’t) shifted.

 Newspaper headlines depicting the economic depression
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Today? It's at 7.3, a far cry from 10 percent but still well above the days before the Great Recession.

Day-to-Day Expenses: Then and Now

All in all, prices have remained pretty stable over the past five years.

Average price of a gallon of milk then: $3.77

Now: $3.44

Average price for an unleaded gallon of gas then: $3.69

Now: $3.62

Average price of a loaf of bread then: $1.21

Now: $1.43

Average price of a movie ticket then: $7

Now: $8.38

Housing: Then and Now

Back then, the average price of a new house was $287,100, and as of July 2013, it was $322,700, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data. That is welcome news for the person selling, and not as good for the person buying. On the other hand, you could argue that everyone is winning now: The average interest on a single family home in September 2008 was 6.04 percent; today, it's 4.46 percent.

What We Said About the Economic Mess: Then and Now

Everyone had an opinion. A lack of regulation, cheap credit and the compensation structure on Wall Street were some of the culprits fingered. As U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett, then and now a Republican representing New Jersey's fifth congressional district, said to The Star-Ledger, "The lessons are multifaceted. It would be wrong to point a finger at one player on the field and say he is totally to blame."

Whatever and whomever is to blame, many people are saying we haven't learned enough.

"Nothing has really changed on the regulatory front, and we've done nothing to really protect ourselves from another financial collapse, regardless of what the media says," explains Doug Lockwood, branch president at Hefty Wealth Partners in Auburn, Ind. "Most banks are bigger now than they were back then, as measured by total assets on their books. We haven't learned anything, and these banks are even bigger. Regulation has almost done nothing."

[See: 50 Smart Money Moves to Make Now.]

Usha Haley, director of the Robbins Center at West Virginia University and author of "Subsidies to Chinese Industry," agrees, saying: "We should have learned that excessive leverage is bad. but our record otherwise is spotty and China learned no lesson, increasing leverage."

In fact, if there is another recession in the near future, Haley believes it will begin in China.

Those looking for an encouraging word would do well to listen to Joel Trammell, a serial entrepreneur and chairman of the Austin Technology Council, a trade association for technology and life sciences companies. He sees a brighter economic picture ahead.

"Major events like the Great Depression and the Great Recession stick in people's memory because they are so rare," Trammell says. "Unfortunately, once people have lived through one such event, they dramatically overestimate the chance of it happening again."