Cuts in benefits matter to the people directly affected, who may well already be struggling to make ends meet.
But they matter to the rest of us too.
For a start, nobody wants to live in a society where some people, including perhaps some children, genuinely don’t have enough to eat, or clothes to wear, or a home to live in.
That’s not to say that every benefit cut will necessarily plunge those affected into absolute poverty but they will certainly make life even harder for some people who are already struggling.
There is also, however, a knock-on effect for the economy in general.
Just as the closure of a factory will affect a range of local businesses, including shops frequented by the plant’s former workers, so cuts to benefits will reduce the spending power of some of the people living in the poorest parts of our towns and cities.
That’s bad news for businesses. Of course, benefit claimants tend not to be big spenders. Even those whose payments are to be capped at “just” £500 a week are likely to be giving much of that to a landlord, but it’s still cash which is taken out of the economy.
That’s not to say that the impact of benefit cuts is always negative.
In some cases, cutting benefits will make the prospect of working more attractive. The latest figures, published this week, show that unemployment in the West Midlands has risen by 15,000 over the past year. But they also show that the number of people who have jobs rose by 83,000 in the region over the same period.
This apparent contradiction reflects the fact that more people are entering the workforce and either getting jobs or looking for one. To use the official terminology, they are becoming “economically active”.
When considering the morality of benefit cuts, it is also important to consider where the money comes from.
The median salary for a full-time employee in the West Midlands is below £26,000. This is unlikely to be enough to provide them or their family with a life of luxury.
Every demand for the state to spend more money is a demand for ordinary working people to be taxed more highly. If we ever do move into a fantastic world where everything is paid for by taxing banker’s bonuses then that argument may no longer apply, but one has to suspect that will never happen, regardless of the result of future elections.