George Osborne may have talked about job creation in his budget speech, but the real impact on families will be the 'pre-announced' tax and national insurance policies and decisions on Threadneedle Street
If George Osborne had set up not the Office of Tax Simplification but the Office of Budget Speech Simplification, maybe today he would have said: "There's no money left, so we have to raise taxes. But only the working and middle classes really pay up, so we've also raised VAT, and now we're going to hit you with more income tax, although we're calling it national insurance in the hope you won't notice.
"There's also 1p off a litre of unleaded from tonight, and a small bung on your income tax, but not for another year. Fight among yourselves over the fact that we're whipping child benefit and tax credits away from some of the slightly better-off among you. See you next year, got to go and close some schools, hospitals and libraries. Bye."
Instead we were treated to 55 minutes at the despatch box in which there was lots of talk of jobs, enterprise and growth. And just a brief mention of the fact that in 14 days national insurance will rise for millions of people, an extra 750,000 people will become higher rate taxpayers, and some tax credits will be withdrawn, with many families losing £545.
In fact, 6 April will see the start of possibly the biggest tax grab for more than a decade, but the chancellor couldn't quite bring himself to spell out the grisly details.
In a trend begun by Gordon Brown, but taken up with alacrity by Osborne, budget speeches rarely tell you just about the year ahead. Crowd pleasers (fuel tax giveaways, job creation programmes, the £630 rise in the personal allowance) are brought forward, while bad news has already been "pre-announced" and can be safely brushed under the carpet.
Meanwhile, in the real world of personal tax – what will actually happen to your wage packet next month – it's payback time after the billions spent rescuing the bankers and the economy from the financial crisis. Curiously, for a chancellor whose party in opposition decried the loss of the married couples allowance and stealth taxes on middle England, it is middle to higher income families with stay-at-home mums who will feel the squeeze hardest.