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April 2nd, 2012 1:24 pm
The 6 Groups Responsible for California’s Budget Mess

Joe Mathews blogs at NBC Bay Area on the people and institutions most at fault for California’s budget fiasco.

The system makes the decisions, not lawmakers. And that system — the formulas and court decisions and constitutional spending mandates and tax restrictions — does not exist in any particular place that can be protested.

That’s the strange genius of this system, which is really a set of complex formulas. You can’t picket a formula’s house.

Indeed, protesting at the Capitol may be counterproductive — because it advances a false public narrative that the legislature is the problem here. The problem is the people of California, especially voters of the present and of the past.

Two years ago, in this piece for Fox & Hounds Daily, I suggested five alternative locations for protests: highways, gas stations, the prison guards’ union, retirement communities, and unsold homes.

Since then, I have one additional idea: California cemeteries.

Many of the spending mandates and tax restrictions that are strangling the budget, and higher education in particular, were put in place long ago by voters.

So long ago that many of those voters are dead. What better way to represent this problem of the dead governing the living than by taking the protest to those voters?

And what better way to show the crisis of California’s politics than to act as if politically-imposed spending formulas can’t be politically reformed?

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