Summers says keep payroll tax break

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Summers told an audience at the liberal Center for American Progress that that a long-term deficit deal needs to be put in place, but the more important immediate goal should be to spur the economic recovery.

He said that it is not likely that announcing changes to "Medicare and Social Security years from now" will spur growth.

Summers had harsh words for the budget and economic plans of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

“This is the first time that the challenger’s errors have been measured in the trillions of dollars,” he said of Romney’s plans.

“This is the daughter of voodoo economics,” he said.

Summers said that Romney’s plans to cut taxes by 20 percent, shrink the deficit and keep middle-class tax breaks in place is mathematically impossible.

He compared it to vowing to eat more chocolate cake, ice cream and hamburgers, lose 60 pounds, and avoid painful exercise. Only by redefining upper income as those making $100,000, rather than $250,000, would reducing rates and protecting the “middle class” be possible, he suggested.  

The White House has not come out in favor of keeping the payroll tax break in place. The lost revenue to the Social Security trust fund is now being made up with general funds, thereby worsening the budget deficit.

The end of the payroll tax break is part of the "fiscal cliff" of budget cuts and tax hikes set to occur next year. The Obama administration wants to keep Bush-era tax rates on the middle class in place but end them for the wealthy.