Don't push us too far, Mr Noonan

WITH just over a week until Budget Day, one wonders what more cuts and tax hikes will be flagged. 'Softening up' the electorate ahead of the big day is a Government tactic as old as the hills. But the measures flagged over the past week or so are truly eye-watering.

A 2pc VAT hike, a €50 charge for medical cards, a €1.50 hike on prescription charge items and a €10 cut to child benefit have all been mooted. And even more may be flagged in the coming days.

This comes as a tax body reports that the average Irish family's net income has dropped by more than €600 in three years.

If the Government proceeds with most of what it's considering, families could find themselves down €1,200 by the end of 2012. Such a blow would cast hundreds of ordinary families, already struggling to keep their heads above water, into the poverty trap.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan would do well to remember this, as he puts the final touches on his Budget.