1. In 2000, the United States boasted a more than $236 billion budget surplus (the national debt was just under $6 trillion).
2. The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 decreased each tax bracket and created a 10 percent bottom rung. Top earners' tax rate dropped by 4.6 percentage points.
3. The act also increased the child tax credit from $500 to $1,000 and gave married couples filing jointly a standard deduction twice that of an individual.
4. To conform with a Senate rule that required budget-reconciliation legislation to not decrease tax revenue for more than 10 years, the cuts were set to expire on Dec. 31, 2010.
5. The savings were scheduled to phase in gradually, but in 2003 President Bush signed into law the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act, which accelerated the timeline of the earlier cuts and benefits.
6. Citizens for Tax Justice estimated the cuts saved taxpayers $2.5 trillion between 2001 and 2010.
7. Now three years into a severe economic downturn, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the budget deficit was $1.3 trillion in fiscal year 2010 and the national debt neared $14 trillion.
8. If Congress does nothing, tax rates will rise and credits will disappear.
9. The Treasury Department estimates that if all the cuts are kept, taxpayers would save (and the government would lose) $3.7 trillion over the next 10 years.
10. Democrats and Republicans mostly agree on extending the tax cuts for Americans making less than $200,000 ($250,000 for couples filing jointly), but President Obama wants to let the cuts expire for the top wage earners.