What on earth is that keening noise?

All around Britain, there’s this horrific low wailing noise at the moment. It is the keening of households that earn at least twice as much as the average household income in the UK (which is about £22k ISTR). And happen to have children.

The noise is because they’ve just found out that Georgie babe has done them out of £1700 child benefit, so their second family holiday might have to be axed. Boo Hoo. It always puzzled me as to why the hell I was paying for my colleagues to have kids. Or conversely, why I couldn’t levy a tax on them to support things I might want to do.

As soon as you venture into the arena of people and their kids then you live dangerously, but heck, I’m up for the fight :) I can see the rationale for child benefit for up to two children, targeted at those below the average income. But I’m sorry. If you are a higher rate taxpayer you don’t need State support for your lifestyle choices even if your partner is a SAHM (or SAHD).

You may like it, and it may enable you to live above your means in a house that is too big for you. But it’s not necessary. How do I know that? Well, look around you. There are lots of average Brits on the average household income of £22k with average number of kids. They manage on £24k odd (extra 2k to factor in their child benefit, natch). You’ve already got more than them coming in. I don’t begrudge these average earners their assistance, though child benefit should be capped at 2 kids IMO – we shouldn’t pay people to over-reproduce because there’s a danger of Idiocracy coming to pass if we do that. But I do begrudge you your child benefit if you are my colleagues, or people that earn more than the HRT threshold. Why should I pay for Tarquin’s tuba lessons and your second holiday? Oh but it’s so expensive to have 5 kids? Well, it’s something you wanted to do. What staggers me is this sort of thing from fulltimemum on the Daily Torygraph

Devastated by news of CB cuts! Husband is just over the threshold, when car allow., and comm. are included. We made the decision as a family 8 years ago, that I should stay at home and actually raise our own children (we have 4). We would lose £240 a month with the intended cuts, this is simply not feasible for us. We could not pay our bills.  [...] We had very little savings to get by and relied on our parents to support us during this time. It was such a traumatic period that I considered whether I should get a job just incase it were to happen again, but still we decided that all things considered it would be best to stay home for the children. News that CB will be completely axed for us, means I have literally no choice but to find work before 2013. I am a Physics graduate, (and PhD), but graduated many years ago, [...] The news of the Chancellor’s CB cuts, have left me feeling helpless and that I am being ‘shoe-horned’ out of my own home to allow us to maintain our standard of living, and remain in our home, and the older children in their school.

She sounds like a lovely person, and is no doubt a good SAHM. But 4 kids? Depending upon a State handout to make her personal finances work? This lady has got a PhD FFS – she should have seen how unwise that is. And the throwaway reference to keeping the older children in their school, well, if it’s a question of paying Tarquin and Jemima’s school fees with my taxes,  steady on there fulltimemum. I’m happy enough for my taxes to put brussel sprouts and mash on Jack and Shanice’s plate, but school fees? What’s up with that? What’s with the absence of savings too. This little princess has got to get used to making some decisions about her priorities and values in life.

If anybody has the temerity to dredge up the old saw about their kids pushing my bathchair in old age, well, you can stick it. It’ll be the kids of the poor, or more likely immigrant workers who will do that. And I’m happy to pay CB for the poor (up to 2 kids). I’m not happy to pay this lady’s children’s school fees, nor your family holiday in the sun.

Under normal circumstances I consider it highly rude to get involved with other people’s reproductive choices, I’m not one of the head cases that talks about flesh loaves etc. If you don’t ask me to pay for your choice to have children, then I’ve got no comment. But if you feel entitled to take a slice out of my earnings for little Tarquin’s school fees, well, you get to hear my opinion. I paid for that right, I’m going to have my rant, dammit!

Update – Looks like the Torygraph’s James Kirkup has done the work to establish how well off these SAHM/D households with two kids and a £44k working parent are using the IFS calculator. This household is better off than 78% of the population. These guys don’t need my help with their kids.

Update2 – Lemondy below points out that the falling standards of education have had an effect on Torygraph journalists who failed to drive the IFS calculator right – much appreciated. Actually all you said was that Kirkup cocked up, I added the spin about falling standards ;) So the people losing out aren’t quite as well off as he indicated. They’re still a damn sight better off than most of their compatriots, however.

Shooting fish in a barrel, methinks, but there is some more stuff to consider.

The anomaly of 2 x £40,000 households still getting CB (this a practicality/cost issue) is obviously bonkers and not completely offset by childcare costs.

The possible unintended macroeconomic effect of encouraging SAHPs to go back to work may increase unemployment claims elsewhere.

Simplifying the benefits system and making it more rational is not going to be easy, but I suppose it’s a start.

5 Oct 2010, 9:30pm
by Lemondy


AMEN BROTHER. I lose out from this and I am with you all the way. The noise today from the media classes is simply obscene. Especially the champagne socialists over at the Guardian. Obscene. Sickening. Who will fight for the bottom 20% of the income distribution if this is the reaction to a tax rise to the rich? I feel more despair at the state of this country than I have for a while.

Kirkup has used the IFS calculator incorrectly – it takes net income and he’s given it gross – a better rough figure is that those affected have a “higher income than 59% of the population” which is not so extreme, but it doesn’t detract from the argument. I think I read the Treasury calculation was that this would affect the top 15% of families.

yes excellent this was needed a long time ago!!!

[...] ermine wrote on his blog this week, citing one excessive whiner: 4 kids? Depending upon a State handout to make her personal [...]

@SG, agreed, there are some issues because in Britain we haven’t got it straight in our heads, do we tax households or do we tax individuals. We have a slight preference for the latter, so we can’t take the household income into account, hence this anomaly, though we withdraw benefits from individuals based on household income elsewhere. A battle to fight another day for Georgie methinks.

@Lemondy, thanks for picking up Kirkup’s cock-up, and James and you the general tone ;)

Monevator picked up the curious concept of benefits being potentially more than the average income which is downright weird, he’s tackled that with panache :)

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