The largest banks are larger today than when Obama took office and are returning to the level of profits they were making before the depths of the financial crisis in 2008, according to government data.

Wall Street firms — either independent companies or the high-flying trading arms of banks — are doing even better. They’ve made more profit in the first 21 / 2 years of the Obama administration than they did during the entire Bush administration, industry data show.

Behind this turnaround are government policies that saved the financial sector from collapse and then gave banks and other financial firms huge advantages on the path to recovery. For example, the federal government invested hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars in banks, money that the firms used for risky investments on which they made huge profits.

Reviving the financial system was necessary for preventing an even deeper economic recession. But the Bush administration, which first moved to bail out Wall Street, and the Obama administration, which ultimately stabilized it, took a far more tepid approach to helping ordinary Americans, critics say.