Kitchen confidential: my 54 closed cook books and six-dish repertoire
Squeezed middle's squeezed children:
UNLESS YOU’VE been living in an episode of a Nigella TV show, you’ll be familiar with the concept of the terms “squeezed middle” or the “new poor”.
The term means something slightly different in Ireland than it does in the UK or the US, where there are more useful statistical measures. But most of us in Ireland instinctively know who the “squeezed middle” are: they’re the people on low and middle incomes, who’ve been hardest affected by inflation, wage freezes and spending cuts.
In other words, the people whose income is falling, while their debts remain fixed.
Our system of child benefit has been one of the few remaining safety nets for the children of these people. It’s not a perfect safety net, but remove it, or crudely slash it, and you risk plunging even greater numbers of children into poverty than the 8.1 per cent already there.
Yet according to reports this week, that’s precisely what an advisory group to Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton wants: it is recommending that child benefit be cut to a flat €100 a month.
The report – which emerged in a week when Ireland had just paid out another €1 billion to unsecured AIB bondholders – says that instead of taxing benefits and giving tax credits for every child, as some economists have suggested, “top-up” payments could be made to low-income families.
Slashing the rate across the board might be the quickest way of recouping some of the €2.1 billion the child-benefit system currently costs the exchequer, but it will hit Irish society where it hurts most: right in the middle.
Let's not all rush out to follow Marissa Mayer's lead just yet
THE MOST eagerly anticipated baby in Silicon Valley has arrived.
“Baby Boy Bogue” as he has so-far being called, was born to Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer and her financier husband Zachary Bogue (right) earlier this week – seven days ahead of schedule and just three months into her tenure at the top of the struggling internet company.
Mayer’s pregnancy excited lots of column inches when she announced it on the same day as she was unveiled as the new Yahoo boss. Instantly, her name became a synonym in the media for “trailblazer”, “role model” and, although she had yet to set foot in the labour ward, “poster mom”.
Mayer said she’d be returning to work as soon as possible and it seems she’s as good as her word. Yahoo has announced she’s due back at work “in one to two weeks”.
I wish her all the best, but let’s not label her a “trailblazer”, and expect the rest of us to follow her lead – dough-nut rings, leaky boobs and packets of Solpadeine in tow.