On a plane to Sacramento last week, a bunch of SEIU folks were also on the flight. But they were dressed wrong.

They chose purple T-shirts, and explained they were there to lobby for more money for a variety of programs and bills. I wished them luck, but didn’t have high hopes for them. Don’t they know that Sacramento loosens the purse strings only if you wear a basketball jersey?

It really is a peculiar moment in Sacramento. The state capital doubles as California’s capital of austerity. People of both parties there are full of fear about overreach, about using today’s revenue surge to make up old cuts or make new investments in the state’s future.

That’s at least, how they talk about the states. But they are ready to spend without rhyme or reason to keep a basketball team in town.

My co-author Mark Paul, a former deputy state treasurer, has written far more, and far more convincingly, than I ever could about the boondoggle of an arena deal being pushed forward to keep a very bad basketball team, the Sacramento Kings, in town. The city is willing to put up public dollars, even though such investments have been shown, again and again and virtually everywhere, to be a bad deal.

I have a hard time getting mad about that. If people in Sacramento want to waste local tax dollars on the last place team in the Pacific Division, that’s their problem.

But I do think there’s an opening here for college students, poor people and others who deserve more from the state government Sacramento. When they’re turned down for more dollars in Sacramento, they should remind their representatives of how much Sacramento wants to spend on a basketball team. Does that make any sense?

And if shaming doesn’t work, maybe disguise will. Include a basketball arena in your proposal, whatever it is. Dress as though you were a basketball team. It seems to make the people up there open their wallets.