National Public Radio has a story about the Bush tax cuts: "These cuts were passed during the Bush administration at a time when the economy was a lot stronger than it is today."
The two big Bush tax cuts were the The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, enacted June 7, 2001, and the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, enacted May 28, 2003. Was the economy stronger or weaker in June 2001 or May 2003 than it is today? It depends how you measure. The unemployment rate is much higher today than it was in either 2001 or 2003. But if you look at the payroll survey, the economy had about 132 million jobs in June 2001, 129.8 million in May 2003, and 130.4 million in June 2010, the most recent date available. If you look at GDP in constant 2005 dollars, by the Department of Commerce's count, GDP in 2001 was 11.3 trillion, in 2003 was 11.8 trillion, and in the most recent quarter of 2010 has been running at a rate of 13.2 trillion, so, if you measure strength by the amount of goods and services the country produces, the economy now is stronger than it was in 2001 or 2003.
If you look at the value of large publicly traded American companies, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index, which closed yesterday at about 1,120, was at about 953 on May 28, 2003 and at about 1,277 on June 7, 2001, according to Yahoo! Finance.
Since GDP and employment figures have a considerable lag (much more so than stock market values), it's hard to assess exactly how strong the economy is today without the benefit of hindsight.
Anyway, I think NPR oversimplifies it some. The article is also a little bit vague on what the strength of the economy should mean for tax cutting. Should tax cuts come in a strong economy because the revenue gusher is so strong the government has so much money it can afford to return some to the taxpayers? Or in a weak economy, as a stimulus? Some advocates of tax cuts would say both.
One thing is for certain: Back in 2003, NPR wasn't touting the strength of the Bush economy. Instead, in May 2003, it was giving airtime to Senator Carol Moseley Braun, who declared, "I think that we have a responsibility to get this economy going. It's in the double dip of a recession that is being exacerbated or made worse by tax cuts again that didn't make a whole lot of sense."