Remember those massive protests at the state Capitol three weeks ago over higher education funding cuts and tuition increases? The protests were covered as historic and momentous.
And they've changed nothing.
Why? Because the protests themselves reflect a misunderstanding of what's causing higher education cuts -- and other California problems.
U.S. & World
The protestors marched -- and some were arrested -- around and inside a building that is run by people who agree with them.
Democratic legislators and the governor don't want to cut higher education. Heck, Republican legislators don't want to cut higher education. They vote to do so because they have little choice.
The broken budget system protects all kinds of spending, and makes it next to impossible to raise taxes. But higher education has no such protection. Since higher education is easier to cut, it gets cut. And tuition goes up.
Demanding that elected officials stop this is a waste of time. 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.
Protests against higher ed cuts thus should target the public -- and explain the ways that the public built this mess -- and that the public and voters will have to be the ones who fixed it.
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 educaiton 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?
A spooky good idea, if I do say so myself.