Why Is This Poll News?

If you want to understand the depths of confusion in California, read this story from last week in the LA Times reporting on a new USC/LA Times poll. The big revelation is supposed the finding that -- oh my goodness -- a majority of Californians are willing to pay more taxes if the money goes to education.

No kidding. Every poll I've seen in 10 years writing about California politics has found something similar. And you may have noticed that Californians keep electing Democratic legislatures -- and mostly Democratic statewide officials -- who are pretty open about the fact that they'd love to raise taxes to pay more for schools.

So a poll is pointless. The point of saying this again is: if a majority of Californians want more taxes and more education, why don't they get it?

For two reasons: 1) Because when you press them, Californians like raising taxes that affect other people more than themselves. And 2) Because California's system is set up to prevent majorities from getting their way. In fact, the state budget system has so many supermajorities, spending mandates, and other rules that it is effectively a system of minority rule. A minority party or a spending lobby can use these rules to frustrate the will of the majority.

Instead of recycling old polling findings, USC scholars should be spending time and resources figuring out ways to fix the system -- and ways of getting elites and California voters alike to embrace them.

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