California’s elites are so eager to lick the budget crisis forever that they are working feverishly to preserve said crisis.

That’s the paradox of the powerful conventional wisdom that has taken hold of Gov. Brown and elites of both parties. We have rough balance of the budget – so let’s preserve it at all costs, by not spending or doing anything to reverse the damage the budget crisis has left us.

Of course, as a practical matter, this means the budget crisis is still very much with us; over the last decade, state legislators and governors of both parties have focused much of their energy on being cheap, very cheap. And it succeeded, in the same sense that Mao’s Long March did. We’ve reached our destination, the balanced budget, after much hardship and deprivation (at least for now). And now we get to enjoy success, by preserving that hardship and deprivation.

Infrastructure and higher education, important economic and social drivers, are in shambles. Thousands of public workers are gone, many of them teachers. The school year in many places is shorter.

But let’s not do much of anything about it. Listen to the Republicans—they warn about spending more. Listen to Brown – who is locking in these low levels of spending and being treated like a Democratic hero. (Remind me: What are Democrats for?) Leaders in the legislature, armed with a two-thirds supermajority, are preaching frugality and caution.

This is bizarre because there’s a pretty good case to spend – on repairing the crisis damage and investments infrastructure and education. So why not? The tax politics are fraught. And of course, there’s the problem that our governance system remains so broken that if we put more money into it, no one has any confidence that the money would end up in the right places.

But we can’t reform that governance system. It’s unrealistic.

I read that we’ve reduced our prison population. Which is hard to believe since the whole state has confined itself.

Scrap “Eureka.” The new state motto – at least the one embraced by elites running the joint – is a bit longer.

Austerity now.

Austerity forever.