There was a great deal of huffing and puffing on the news programmes last night about the coalition government's proposal to withdraw child benefit from those who pay the higher (40%) income tax rate. Apparently (I say "apparently" because to me and the overwhelming majority of the UK population the level of income necessary to pay this level tax is a purely theoretical matter way beyond our everyday experience) this band kicks in at an annual income, allowing for personal and other allowances, of around £44 000 a year, and astonishingly, the median (that's the lot in the middle, there are as many above as below) income of this group is around £77 000.
Most people on the average income of around £25 000 a year or below see either level of income as luxury beyond the dreams of avarice. Big Issue sellers, unemployed people, and those on the minimum wage would be overjoyed to be receiving even the average wage.
I am frankly ashamed to live in a society where people living in the lap of luxury make such a fuss* about the loss of what they regard as an entitlement. This withdrawal will have only a minor impact on the lives of what the Daily Mail likes to call "middle England." Maybe they'll have to cut out just one of their foreign holidays, not replace the gas-guzzling 4 x 4 for another year, clothe the kids from Primark rather than Gap, or postpone refitting the kitchen with tropical hardwoods.
At the other end of the scale those facing the employment or poverty traps may suffer real hardship when obtaining a job or getting a rise in pay takes away benefits. Maybe it will do Middle England good to experience the feeling, even if only at a theoretical level.
*I suspect that the fuss may emanate from the media (Paxman et al ), anxious to generate as much dissatisfaction as possible from any situation, rather than from the people actually affected. If this is the case, my apologies to those in Middle England who are quite happy to play their part and experience some minor deprivations because "we're all in this together."