A few weeks ago, I wrote about the rising cost of living and not being able to afford to be alive in the 21st century. Well, nothing much has changed since then, but I have been thinking about what, if anything, could be done about it. A lot of the advice online relates to what we can do as individuals. Things like planting vegetable gardens, going solar, no more dining out or takeaway, not upgrading our phones, shopping around for insurance and utilities, reducing our spending on alcohol, cutting up our credit cards. These make a lot of sense in theory. However, if you are in financial trouble now, advice about planting food that may or may not grow for a while (I don't know about you, but my thumb isn't green), not financing things when you're already locked into contracts, and going solar when you rent, is probably not the most practical support. In fact, pointing out all the things you "should have done" months or years ago can be more damaging, and have the opposite effect to the one intended. Terry Pratchett's "Boots theory of socioeconomic unfairness", which I explained in my previous article, has never been more clearly demonstrated than when you consider how difficult it is to pull yourself out of a financial hole. When you only have a $10 budget for boots, you just can't afford the $50 pair that will last much longer than five times the cheaper ones' lifespan, because you need the boots now. There is no time to "save up" when your soles have holes in them and your feet are wet. So, I started to think in broader terms. The increase in the cost of utilities over the past 10 years has been fuelled by a complex web of factors, but part of the issue for consumers is that if you are renting, you don't have autonomy over the use of renewables in "your" home. Thus, those who cannot afford to buy a house are stuck with the higher bills. Solar rebates are available for landlords to install solar panels on their rental properties - incentivising landlords to make use of them would significantly help our renting neighbours with their utilities costs. According to the Australian Automobile Association, Australian budget papers reveal motorists will pay $49.3 billion in net fuel excise over the next four years, equating to $1188 per year for the typical household. This is on top of 10 per cent GST. Senator Rex Patrick has called on the Australian government to halve the fixed-price fuel excise of 44.2cents a litre for 12 months, recognising the "boa constrictor" effect of the price of fuel on household budgets. Or at least, scrap the GST on fuel prices, as it's a tax on a tax. However, Vlado Vivoda, a senior lecturer in strategic studies at Deakin University, argues that the long-term pain this would cause isn't worth the short-term gain. He argues it would undermine the government's strategic goal of decarbonisation, and that people should be moving away from petrol- or diesel-fuelled cars and purchasing electric vehicles anyway. For those of us choosing between buying petrol and paying rent, this is cold comfort. The 2010 Henry tax review demonstrated that 10 of the 115 taxes Australians pay collected 90 per cent of the revenue. That leaves a lot of inefficient taxes that could be scrapped. In 2020, Ken Fehily, one of the architects of Australia's GST and an adviser to Peter Costello's GST Technical Advisory Committee, stated that the GST should be increased to as much as 15 per cent and should include all food, education, healthcare (except doctor visits), and utilities. Once again, the consumer is left to bear the burden of increased costs, under the "participation model" of politics where we are all expected to "do our part". And yet, in December 2021, Guardian Australia reported that while 168 of Australia's biggest companies earned $9.85 billion in profits since 2013, none of them paid any tax. These companies include household names like Lendlease, and subsidiaries of BHP and Rio Tinto. It seems to be a pattern in Australia that the people are sucked dry and then blamed for the struggle street they end up on, while being lectured by politicians in $50 boots to pull themselves up by their $10 bootstraps. Maybe if the government stopped knocking us down, we wouldn't need to keep pulling ourselves back up.