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Judging the Bush tax cuts -- 10 years later

Exactly 10 years ago today, George W. Bush signed the first of his large tax cuts into law, which President Obama temporarily extended last December.

And get this: In those 10 years -- under two different presidents and after more tax cuts -- the U.S. economy has lost a net of 1.1 million jobs.

Of course, much has taken place in those 10 years. The recession of 2001. The 9/11 attacks. The 2008 financial collapse. And the global economic downturn that followed.

But those 1.1 million jobs lost -- compared with more than 20 million jobs added during higher tax rates in the 1990s -- make the argument that lower taxes aren't always a guarantee for economic growth and job expansion.

The reason from the left: The Bush tax cuts were heavily tilted toward the wealthy, who are less inclined to spend their excess money. What's more, they reduced the amount of revenue flowing into the Treasury Department's coffers.

"The Bush tax cuts are a major driver of our current deficit -- and have been and will continue to be," argues Chuck Marr, director of federal tax policy at the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Chris Edwards, the director of tax policy studies at the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute, has a different take on the Bush tax cuts.

Edwards says the 2001 cuts (which included lower individual tax rates) turned out to be less effective than the later ones enacted in 2003 (on dividends and capital gains). "Bush's cuts were half and half in my view."

He also contends that it's too simplistic to extrapolate from the last 10 years that tax cuts -- in general -- don't work. "So much goes on in the economy," Edwards said, referring to external events, trade policies, and spending. "Clinton's higher tax rate doesn't prove any kind of relationship."

The current crop of Republican presidential hopefuls are continuing to bet on lower taxes. In his speech at the University of Chicago today, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposed decreasing individual income-tax rates to just two levels: 10% and 25%; 35% is the current top level. And he also called for a lower corporate-tax rate.

"Growing at 5% a year -- rather than at the current level of 1.8% -- would net us millions of new jobs," Pawlenty said. "How do we do it? In short, we create more economic growth by creating more economic freedom."