While my goal here is not to necessarily cry wolf, I do think that any thinking person ought to be concerned, given these facts. The simple and ugly truth is that the economic disaster of 2008 never really went away, it was simply delayed by seven years of ZIRP (aka Zero Interest-Rate Policy), much like giving morphine to a person who has broken their leg . Now that the government has tapered off its policy of "quantitative easing" (aka "injecting liquidity," or inventing more money out of thin air), the American, and therefore the global economy, is now for the first time feeling the full effects of the recession that hit in 2008.
In essence, we suffered a broken leg in 2008, and instead of actually treating it we simply took massive amounts of morphine (in the form of zero-interest loans from the government) in order to numb the pain and keep walking. Now that we risk dying of "liver poisoning" from all the morphine (represented by unacceptable levels of economic growth and inflation), the government is trying to wean us all off of it by raising interest rates. The issue now is that we never truly resolved the problems of 2008, and so in our broken leg analogy we are now finally feeling the effects of walking on a broken bone after seven years of morphine.
"What problems haven't we resolved?" you ask. Great question. I don't want to bore you with thousands of esoteric details, but I'll name a few major ones, as I see them. I will also add at this point that I have done my best to confirm my opinions with someone who is intimately knowledgeable on this subject (he's got a masters in econ), and to be fair, I should inform you that he will probably disagree with most of what I'm writing in this article for ideological reasons.
Problem one: Stock Buybacks
This practice is still widely used today, because free loans at zero percent interest make it extremely easy to get cash on short notice and buy back stocks when your company's shares aren't performing as well as you'd like them to. Unfortunately, this does nothing to create new jobs or increase revenues for the company, it simply makes them look richer on paper.
Problem Two: Unregulated Derivatives Market
As time went on and the dot-com bubble burst, Greenspan came to the rescue with what would become the first of many government bailout programs. By the time he was replaced by George W. Bush with Ben Bernanke, the bailout policy for companies and banks considered "too big to fail" was already well established. This same bailout program would then be driven into overdrive by Bernanke (and his newest successor Janet Yellen) with the advent of the TARP bailouts and Quantitative Easing rounds 1 through 3.
Though these policies of easing are not directly tied to the derivatives market, one could easily argue that the derivatives market, which has been grossly overvalued due to its unregulated nature, has increased our economy's vulnerability (and therefore its need for rescue) when stocks, bonds, commodities, and other underlying assets go down, since one dollar's worth of underlying assets could be sustaining potentially thousands of dollars worth of derivatives.
Problem Three: The idea of "Too big to fail"
What I mean by this is that, if a bank, government, or company knows that they will never be allowed to fail even under the worst circumstances, it may encourage them to take on far more debt than they could ever reasonably expect to pay off, simply because they trust that others will bail them out when the debt load becomes unmanageable.
The problem with the financial crisis of 2008 is that, when the government bailed out all the insolvent companies that were considered TBTF, we effectively nationalized all of the toxic debts which those companies were carrying, putting trillions of dollars onto the government's ledger which we knew we would probably never be able to pay off.
While the government does have the unique ability to print more money out of thin air to pay its own debts, eventually this can lead to the kinds of stymied economic growth and inflationary stagnation which we are currently seeing in our national and global economy. Furthermore, whereas companies and banks can rely on their TBTF status to secure loans from the government when they inevitably collapse, the government's only hope to raise more money comes in pretty much two forms: raise taxes, or sell more bonds. Selling bonds works when other countries and banks are willing to buy them, but what if the government crosses the threshold where it owes more money than its entire GDP? Will the world still place faith in the bonds of a government that is slowly going the way of Japan, who is currently sitting at roughly 250% debt-to-GDP ratio and whose currency is currently trading at a 120-1 exchange rate with the dollar and 134-1 with the Euro?
So selling bonds requires faith in the government that issues them, and that faith is highly dependent on a country's apparent ability to repay all of its debts. On the other hand, they could always just raise taxes again, right???