(CNN) - President Barack Obama said Tuesday that Congress needs to "immediately" extend a payroll tax cut set to expire at the end of the year.
"If we don't do that, 160 million Americans, including most of the people here, will see their taxes go up by an average of $1,000 starting in January, and it would badly weaken our recovery," Obama said in a speech that pushed for passage of provisions in his jobs package.
He framed the issue as a choice between making vital investments in future growth or the Republican position he characterized as maintaining "tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans in our country."
"We can't afford to do both," Obama said. "That is not politics. That's just math."
Obama said that due to tax loopholes and shelters, "a quarter of all millionaires now pay lower tax rates than millions of you, millions of middle-class families," and "some billionaires have a tax rate as low as 1%."
"This is the height of unfairness," Obama said in a speech pushing for approval of provisions of his jobs package. "It's wrong that in the United States of America, a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker (who) maybe earns $50,000 should pay a higher tax rate than somebody raking in $50 million."
Obama said that the issue "isn't about class warfare," a charge leveled by Republican opponents.
"This is about the nation's welfare," he said. "It's about making choices that benefit not just the people who've done fantastically well over the last few decades, but that benefits the middle class, and those fighting to get into the middle class, and the economy as a whole."