Every year, Bill Graves takes the podium at the American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference and Exhibition and gives an address to ATA members. At this year’s event in Philadelphia, Graves said he foresaw a strong year ahead for trucking business owners, although he did provide one particular caveat: congressional action.
“If there’s a bogeyman that we need to be concerned about, look no farther than Washington, as the disarray within the House of Representatives could lead to all sorts of negative outcomes, unintended consequences and mischief for our economy,” Graves said.
The ATA CEO isn’t alone in his concern about the dysfunction of Washington: a 2014 Gallup poll showed that Congress had only a 15-percent approval rating amongst Americans. In the wake of the government shutdown in November 2013, approval ratings hit an all-time low of 9 percent. Though a budget deal now seems to be heading full-steam ahead and a shutdown won’t be a concern in the near future, Graves’s skepticism of the government isn’t likely to go away anytime soon.
To fully understand Graves’s perspective on D.C., you can look all the way back to 1994, when he won the governorship in Kansas, in part, by campaigning against the record of his opponent, Congressman Jim Slattery, during the Democrat’s time in Washington. Graves went on to win a landslide re-election in 1998, before taking up his current role at the ATA in 2003.
Graves’s record of challenging both Democrats and the more conservative wing of his own party is still alive and well today, as he leveled criticism against the right and the left, though he took specific aim at the dysfunctional House of Representatives which, since the time of Graves’s address, appointed a new Speaker in Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
If Congress can’t fix their own problems, says Graves, they might present a hurdle to the trucking industry in the coming year.
“It seems truly ironic, given all the turmoil that exists throughout the world ,that the single biggest threat we may face is our own government.”