Here’s yet another example that California politics is an entirely different universe that is decidedly not our own: the debate over “permanent” versus “temporary” tax increases.

The context is the 2016 ballot and the various tax-hiking ballot initiatives that may or may not end up on it. Temporary taxes are thought to be more popular, and political “wise men” (I use the quotes because many are women and many aren’t all that wise) advise people to make their tax hikes temporary. In response, anti-taxers warn darkly that temporary taxes end up being permanent.

A note to California political elites: this is stupid stuff, even for you.

I just got a text from Planet Reality and it says: all taxes are temporary.

No tax legislation or initiative can enact a permanent tax rate or increase. Sure, a tax increase can be sold as such. And yes, this is California, where policies made by initiative are way too difficult to undo. But there is no special ink or blood that can write permanent changes in taxes or tax rates. The point is: we can always go in and change tax policy., via future initiatives or legislation.

So why do we have this endless temporary vs permanent tax debate, when it’s basically nonsense. Two reasons:

1. Avoidance. California elites hate to discuss the substance of policies, at least in public. They’d rather argue whether taxes are permanent or temporary than wrestle with how to make the tax system better and more coherent. Tax reform is something everyone knows is necessary, but no one has provided the leadership to enact.

2. The temporary – vs. – permanent fixation is a product of our inflexible political culture and governing system. That culture is obsessed – an obsession you notice if you listen to California political rhetoric – with who or what institution has the “final word” in a policy area. The Air Resources Board? The voters? The legislature? The governor? The courts?

Too often, it can feel like things get settled that way. But here’s the thing: when questions feel settled, that’s exactly the moment when new questions should be raised, and the settlement challenged.

The point of democracy – even in California, with its gold-plated democracy mostly of, for and by the rich — is that no one has the final word. We’re supposed to keep talking, and learning and making changes. Because no law is permanent.