High rate tax payers are not all high earners. To take a family which makes choices that the coalition says that it values: a married couple with 2 children decides that their children would be best brought up by a parent not a child-minder, and so one parent (usually the mother) stays at home, whilst the other continues in work, earning £45,000 a year. There's a financial sacrifice, but it can be done at a stretch, and it's worth making. And make no mistake, Child Benefit is very much part of the current financial calculation for that family.
Axing child benefit will impose real hardship: £20.30/week for the first child; £13.40 for the second: £33.70 per week, or £1,752.40 a year out of the household income. That's not about a few extra bottles of Chardonnay, as some caricature it, but a very significant sum - it would cover about 30 litres of fuel a week for example, which is that family's and children's mobility.
It does more than that. At the moment Child Benefit is a universal recognition of the value society places on having children - the tax payers of the future who will have to shoulder the costs of our healthcare and pensions, not to mention the national debt that our generations have wracked up. It's also paid directly to the mother, giving her recognition of the value of what she does.
This cut comes in from 2013. It needs to be balanced either by an uplift in the Higher Rate Tax banding, or by some form of tapering. Otherwise, it will hit very hard many families who are already struggling. There is a case to taper it and abolish it altogether above a higher income level, but to cut this in full for every family above £44,000 a year, without some tapering to soften the blow, will justifiably strike many who voted for a Conservative government as inconsistent and wrong.
8.00 am update:
Just listened to David Cameron who tried to say both that this is fair, and that it was OK because it won't affect 85% of families. Hmmmm 15% of families who feel unfairly treated is a pretty large number of voters to infuriate. And most of them should be conservatives.
Just to illustrate: a married person earning £45,000 takes home £32,860.40 after tax and NI (but not of course before car tax, council tax etc etc). To lose £1752.40 is to lose over 5% of their take-home income. That will hurt those people very hard. They do not have "broad backs" as Cameron described them this morning.