In the second debate, John McCain reiterated his call for a freeze on non-military spending. Barack Obama's response - calling it taking a hatchet to the budget, when what was needed was a scalpel - was rhetorically powerful. But hiding beneath that is another important revelation - McCain's total lack of experience managing a budget.
After the first debate, a friend of mine raised the issue of across-the-board budget cuts. She said that every time there is a shortfall in the church budget, someone suggests an across-the-board cut. And it needs to be explained to them that this cannot work - that there are some expenses that you can't cut, like staff salaries or utilities - and others that you can. You can't give people a 10% pay cut, you certainly can't cut things like medical insurance by 10%. And, in essence, a budget freeze is a budget cut, given the reality of inflation.
McCain and his surrogates touted Sarah Palin's "executive experience" as an asset that she brought to the campaign. There is some truth there - she probably filled a gaping hole in McCain's resume. After seeing the segment of the Katie Couric interview where McCain and Palin appeared together, it struck me that he was very dismissive of her. The fact that she had to learn about the withdrawal from Michigan from the newspaper makes it all the more apparent that McCain is not treating her like an equal, or even like an adult. Which is sad, because McCain could probably learn an awful lot about balancing a budget from Palin. Of course, you don't need "executive experience" to learn how to manage a budget. It starts with having to manage your own household budget. You learn pretty quickly that you can't get away with cutting back on rent to make up for excess spending on beer. Of course, when you're married to a beer heiress, you don't learn those kinds of lessons, or you forget them. But you really need to manage the budget of something larger than your own household. You need to manage the budget of an organization. Maybe something like a non-profit working on the South Side of Chicago which depends on donations and grants to meet its working expenses.
We don't need leaders with executive experience, but we do need leaders with some amount of managerial experience. By reiterating the "budget freeze" suggestion, McCain indicates once again that he doesn't have the qualifications for the job...