What’s the point of a convertible?
It does nothing to improve the functionality of a car. If anything, it causes more grief because you have to worry about weather conditions, leaf-shedding trees, and presents from overhead birds. But is it worth it? In the words of Bob Hoskins, “abso-floggin-lutely.”
The father of my best friend since high school owns a beautiful convertible Porsche Boxster that we got to use occasionally back in the day. It was the most exhilarating driving experience imaginable. As far as I could tell, there were two reasons above all others why we wanted to use the Porsche any time we could: just to say we did, and to be seen by girls.
Convertibles are cool, affluent, and flashy. They’re a symbol of status. They have no function other than to exist.
The purpose of a convertible is to have one and for people to know you have one.
That’s fine if you’ve earned it and that’s how you choose to spend your hard-earned money. But what about those who attempt to maintain public status at the expense of others?
Our country is entering the age of a fully convertible Congress, in more ways than one. Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced on Sunday that federal relief funds for Hurricane Harvey victims would be inextricably linked to a raise in the debt ceiling, allowing the federal government even more room for borrowing money to top off a $19 trillion national IOU. Trump appears to be in full support of this policy.
The Federalist Party responded on Wednesday by chiding Congress on Twitter, asking why they don’t just “set the ‘ceiling’ at ∞.”
What's the purpose of a debt ceiling that always gets raised? If Dems/Reps refuse to reduce debt, they might as well set the "ceiling" at ∞.
— Federalist Party (@Federalists_USA) September 6, 2017
According to reports, President Trump appears to be in league with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in an effort to do just that. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan allegedly disagrees with politicizing a national crisis, but even he has praised Trump’s bipartisan outreach.
So up, up, up the debt ceiling goes, and a debt ceiling set to infinity is essentially like having no ceiling at all — a convertible Congress.
Now we have a similar question to the one we started with: what’s the point of raising the debt ceiling?
There are no financial benefits, just prolonged devastation. Because, as we know from Mordo, Doctor Strange’s friend who turns evil because he’s too committed to being good (it still doesn’t make sense), “the bill comes due. Always.”
But the bill doesn’t have to come due to this administration if they just kick the can down the road. Not nearly enough Americans will vote out excessive spenders (only budget slicers), so there are no consequences for making Congress convertible in a financial sense.
So while they’re in power, they’ll do their best to keep it and flaunt it. The purpose of power is to have it and for people to know you have it. And that’s the second meaning of a convertible Congress: one that will do anything to retain its power and status, just to say that it has it and to be seen and admired of the public.
In that sense, Congress has been shedding its top for a long, long time.
And are there any consequences? Hardly ever, because once a congressman has gone convertible, he takes meticulous care not to get caught in the rain — to the tune of a 97% incumbent reelection rate in 2017 despite a dismal 18% approval rating.
My dad once ran for Congress and met a certain convertible congressman who’d been representing his district for 23 years. My dad asked him how he’d survived all those elections, and the man said, “It’s very simple: do nothing. Keep your head down and never take a position on anything.” Unfortunately, he wasn’t kidding, nor was his strategy unique.
If we want Congress to put its top back up, we need to show our representatives that there are consequences for filling their tenure with flashy nothingness. One congressman at a time (preferably your own), start demanding better.
Be the rain that ruins their custom leather seats.
Be the tree that drops those awful sticky red things.
Be the bird.
Or better yet, repossess the car. Congress doesn’t deserve a joy ride in a stolen convertible.