A painful choice at
the top of the ticket
By BRAD WARTHEN
Editorial Page Editor
THIS IS A tough election season, especially at the very top of the ticket. Here’s the dilemma:
South Carolina suffers from a leadership deficit in two ways. First, our government is structured to resist change. I’ve been around, and I’ve never seen a system better suited to preserving the status quo. It fragments authority so that no one can bring our limited resources to bear effectively on our challenges. And the voters can’t hold anyone accountable.
This would be OK if the status quo were good. It isn’t. We trail the rest of the nation by almost any measurement you choose.
Here’s the second problem: People who have the vision to lead us out of this situation, and the leadership skills to implement the vision, just don’t run for office. Especially not for governor. Why would an exceptional leader run for an office that’s designed to be ineffective?
The governor used to be even weaker. Sen. Tommy Moore helped broker the 1993 deal that at least boosted the scope of the position up to its current inadequate level. Unfortunately, he shows little interest in taking the next steps in reform.
Still, he’s more inclined in that direction than Florence Mayor Frank Willis. That’s one of the reasons we’ve given Sen. Moore our qualified endorsement in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
The choice is more maddening on the Republican side.
Four years ago, we had high hopes that Mark Sanford would meaningfully address our first leadership problem — the structure. He really seemed to get it.
He failed terribly. Lawmakers aren’t inclined to give the executive branch more power anyway, and they certainly weren’t going to do it for Mark Sanford. They don’t like him. Why? The list is long, but look no further than at the destructive way the governor has chosen to spend the last couple of weeks of this campaign.
He has little to show in the way of accomplishments, so he decided to run against the Legislature. Over the budget. There are better ways lawmakers could spend our money than some of the ways they do. But that’s not his complaint. He just wants them to spend less, period. Never mind that our highways go unpatroled, or our prisons inadequately guarded. Never mind that you can’t get into an emergency room for all the mental patients the state no longer treats. Never mind the neglected rural schools.
He just believes government should spend less. In general. It’s an arbitrary, ideological thing, and don’t ask me to explain it. You either believe it or not. The governor really, really believes it.
Legislators, who are mostly Republicans, believe it, too. That’s why they keep cutting taxes and haven’t raised a general tax since 1987. That’s why so many important functions are underfunded.
But the governor’s so busy pounding away at them as “big spenders” that he couldn’t pause to debate his primary opponent last week. So Dr. Oscar Lovelace appeared on live television and answered questions alone. Sad.
I really liked Dr. Lovelace when he came in to talk to our board, for the same reasons I like the Jimmy Stewart character in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” He believes fervently in the right things, from public schools to the need to raise the cigarette tax to improve health care. But he’s also as politically naive as Mr. Smith.
Worse, he sees no need to change the way our system is set up. He seems to think he would be able to change things through sheer moral force. He doesn’t understand how things work — or rather, how they don’t work.
What did Gov. Sanford say when he spent two hours with our editorial board? Well, a lot of things, but here’s the main message I came away with: If re-elected, he’ll get that government restructuring thing done this time.
Right. Tell me another one.
That was on May 10. In the weeks since, we’ve gone over and over the options, and it’s time to decide. And we’re left with the fact that in the Republican primary, there’s only one person who’s even interested in changing the system so that it will be possible to change other things.
There are some races this season to be enthusiastic about. I urge you, without reservation, to get out and vote for Bo
b Staton for superintendent of schools, and House candidates Bill Cotty, Ken Clark, Joe McEachern and Anton Gunn. But for governor? The editorial at left is the best we can say.
South Carolina needs and deserves a better choice. But this is what we’ve got, for now.
Brad, you want the system changed, Sanford wants to change the system, the legislature blocks him at every turn, yet you won’t support him in that endeavor. Then you wonder why no one can change the system. Sounds like an endless loop to me, until the motherboard fails.
This just reiterates my original point that the system needs to be changed throughout for it to remotely function.
Today’s lead editorial laments the choices we have for Governor without explaining why.
I think the reason is money or lack thereof. Any challenger would need to raise several million dollars to be taken seriously by the media and to get their message out to the public.
You say Sanford has squandered 3 1/2 years, yet you still endorse him. Could Lovelace be any worse? I think not and he has the potential to be much better. He supports public education and has already proven to be a superior communicator.
Finally, I think you owe the voters of SC an apology for endorsing and promoting Sanford 4 years ago. Any of his 2002 primary challengers – Condon, Miles, Wingate or Peeler could have accomplished more with public education and economic development and certainly would have done just as good as Sanford on your pet issue of government restructuring.
The legislature just wants to spend more. The editors and those living well off subsidies and handouts just want more taxpayer money.
Governor Sanford is not unreasonable to expect government to grow no more than the economy. Many years, it need not grow at all. In fact, growth would have to be frozen for 20 years just to compensate for all those years that spending outpaced economic growth.
The spendthrifts and crooks just want to spend every cent they can grab, and it is a shame that so few editors and pundits show so little understanding of the issues, and so much contempt for the taxpayers.
Did you read Speaker Bobby Harrell’s commentary on page D7 in today’s State?
The Legislature is not full of “spendthrifts and crooks” as you and Mark Sanford would have us believe.
I, for one, am not really surprised by this endorsement. Sanford is really the only serious candidate here. And he knew it. That is why he wouldn’t debate Dr. Lovelace.
As for what he has done, and what he will do, I hope that he can get the legislators to work with him on restructuring gov’t. And if he doesn’t, I hope that The State blasts the legislature with the same regularity that they do Sanford and attempt to get them to fall in line. It is unfair to blame him for the failure of those over which he has no power. It is like when people blame the IRS for high taxes. They don’t write the tax code, Congress does. Sanford is only part of the government, and not a very powerful part. I’d like to see stories showing us who is resisting progress, instead of obsessive reporting about PPIC. Maybe The State can be part of the solution. Stranger things have happened.
Anyone with a basic understanding of arithmetic knows that the legislature cannot continue to spend money faster than the economy is growing, yet they continue to do so. The result is a state budget that is about 300% larger than it was, in constant dollars, 20 years ago. This state was not falling apart 30 years ago, so there was obviously no dire need for all this spending.
Even if there was a “dire need” to spend the money, the fact is that the state cannot afford to spend money faster than the incomes of taxpayers are increasing.
No one said the legislature is “full of crooks”, but it has a few who have become quite rich almost solely because of their office.
If it were not full of spendthrifts, it would not spend any more than it did last year, which was already far more than the growth of the tax base. This year, they are wanting to spend the entire $960,000,000 surplus revenues, and borrow more money (which is illegal).
If you want to discuss the budget, read both Gov. Sanford’s oped and then Speaker Harrell’s. The speaker’s is based in reality, the governor’s isn’t. In fact, it seems to have a lot more to do with the public misperceptions that this campaign depends upon.
Brad, I’m curious about your relationship with these officials you criticize. What’s the atmosphere like in a meeting with say Sanford after you had him in your ed-op crosshairs?
I grew up in South Carolina politics. I spent almost as much of my childhood in the State House as I did school. I went with the South Carolina delegation to the National Democratic Convention when I was 18 years old. I understand better than most the vagaries of how politics work.
I hope you are wrong about Oscar’s lack of political experience making him ineffective. He truly is Mr Smith. (Great analogy, btw) We were medical students together and I came to have a deep respect for him.
My hope is that a good man with good ideas would be heard. I hope South Carolinians can recognize a truth teller when they see one.
Even though I am a lifelong Democrat, I would vote for this Republican.
Hey Helen, nice input. What’s your take on the state super of education?
Bobby Harrell admits to spending the entire $960,000,000 of new tax revenues; he just claims that it was all justified, mostly on “repaying trust funds”, which never should have been looted in the first place.
The state retirement system is still bankrupt, with over $24,000,000,000 in unfunded liabilities.
Why would The State “endorse” Sanford, the third-worst governor in the country (and dropping)? The editorial goes on to detail why he has been so ineffective. That’s too bizarre…the guy is ineffective, vituperative, arrogant– and yet we should vote for him?
Oscar may be inexperienced– but Sanford didn’t really have much experience either. Sure, he was a congressman, but all he was ever known for was sleeping on his couch.
Oscar has run a business, worked on various commissions, and I thought he came across well on the TV “debate.” Then again, I think a trained chimp could do better than our current governor.
I think our founding father’s envisioned a government of citizens who will perform public service– it shouldn’t be a rich man’s club of professional politicians. I think The State should encourage citizens to step forward and run. It’s not rocket science.
Some basic management skills, people skills, and compassion– and let the voters decide. Lack of a political resume should not disqualify someone from an endorsement. But four wasted years of symbolism and arrogance? Now that’s a good reason NOT to endorse someone!
Mark, good point about active citizenship. Brad, from what I understand, is focused on changing the state government structure and Lovelace didn’t offer much in this area. To Brad’s credit, he’s looking at the big picture beyond just this election.
Well, I’m not sure who said it first, but I used to hear Sen. Hollings say, “There’s no education in the SECOND kick of a mule.”
The State’s editorial endorsing Sanford just encourages voters to line up for a second kick. I’m not sure how that helps the big picture.
I think part of this endorsement is The State trying to save face– they were so high on him last election and during his first years in office. I think it’s difficult for them to admit they were so wrong.
Where is that ol’ mule?
Brad expressed disappointment about Sanford after edorsing him the first kick.
Brad, I have a major issue with one point that Speaker Harrell makes in his op-ed. He says that life is about relationships, and so is the legislature. Okay, but I thought that these people were being sent to vote yes or no on items based on whether they were good for the people of SC, not the people that they like in Columbia. Many in the legislature think they are entitled to do as they please, unaccountable to anyone.
He also dishonestly tries to pin our meteoric drop in the rankings on unemployment and per capital income on Gov. Sanford. Last I checked, we were down there when he got elected. I guess that Harrell just assumes that most won’t think about the fact that there was some other governor thrown in there, and the drop happened prior to the Sanford administration.
Why would you WANT Sanford to have more power? So he can more easily achieve his goal of gutting public education?
The legislature is spending every cent of tax revenue, sale of property, and borrowing more money. How much more would you want them to spend, on what, and from what source of money?
I know you’re all fans of Brad’s blog (me, too, in fact), but I’d really like to get your take on my little analogy about the governor over here.
The governors plan to restructure state government (again) is reason enough NOT to support him. Round 1 (in the early 90s) was a complete disaster. That’s the main reason we have fewer troopers, less money to spend on roads and continued problems at the DMV. The old Highway Department included all 3 agencies prior to 1993 and it was a whole lot more efficient in those days. He seems very pragmatic. Since Sanford is incapable of working with the General Assembly anyway, what difference does it make what he stands for. My support is for Lovelace in the republican primary and Willis in the democratic. I’m undecided which one I’ll vote in.
In my previous post I intended to say “Mr. Lovelace seems very pragmatic”. So far I like him. Of course he doesn’t have a chance, but that’s beside the point.
South Carolina only seems to be short of highway money for several reasons:
* The state continues to widen rural roads to 4 and 6 lanes, just finished a billion dollar bridge in Charleston, and is building a super expensive intersate connector between I-95 and Myrtle Beach.
* Nationally, the typical state has 21% of roads under its control and budget.
The SC DOT owns 63% of the roads, because it takes them over from real estate developers, as a means of subsidizing urban spraw. Many of those roads do come close to meeting engineering standards, and soon need resurfacing.
The State of South Carolina owns:
* 41,496 road miles
* 8,254 state-owned bridges
* 830 miles of interstate
* 34 Rest Areas and Welcome Centers
* 23 million linear feet of curb & gutter
* 1.25 million driveway entrances
* Over 500,000 traffic signs
* 75,000 shoulder miles of mowing
* Over 20 million linear feet of sidewalks
* Nearly 1,300 miles of guardrail
Lee, your ignorance really does know no bounds, does it?
The reason you see so much construction on interstates and major highways is because we can draw down federal dollars to help pay for it. So, in the limited amount of dollars available to DOT, it only makes sense to spend state money where it can be maximized, i.e., use other people’s money, too.
Why does the state own so many secondary roads? Because who the hell else is going to pay for them? Local governments have very little ways to raise revenue – hence, the damn hue and cry over property taxes. Would you have the state turn over the cost of maintaining these roads to city and country governments? If so, get ready to pay more property taxes, idiot.
This issue is very simple, if people want quality roads to ride on, they have to be paid for. The gasoline tax, per gallon, has remained the same for 20 years. As Tim mentioned, the counties have no money so the state has to pick up the slack if the residents want roads. The gasoline tax is the fairest tax imaginable. People can choose how much or little they want to pay. Use less gas, you pay less tax. Walk, ride a bicycle and you pay nothing. Ride a motorcycle or drive a small car you pay very little. It’s only when you drive a gigantic SUV or truck that the gas tax really becomes a burden.
The projects you mentioned are funded from a variety of sources, not just state gas tax revenue. Honestly Lee, do you really believe the old Cooper River bridges should not have been replaced? I say it’s time to raise the gas tax to properly fund the highways in SC.
Tim, why does SC own secondary roads at 3 times the rate of other states?
As an engineer, I know that when a state owns so many miles of road, it reaches a saturation point, where maintenance consumes all the budget, and there is no more money for new construction.
Spendthrift liberals always point to some other state’s higher taxes as evidence that South Carolinians could be taxed more. The rest of us just like to see some priorities set, and justification for those new 4 and 6 lane roads running through vast stretches of rural land, while existing roads go without repairs.
Bud, some comments and perspectives are generated from the magic 8-ball in which you ask it questions then shake it. These bloggers are immune to all things sensical and factual. You’d have better luck explaining to your cat why we can’t do away with all taxes.
Randy E, how dare you insult my cat that way! I’m not really trying to persuade Lee and Dave. But it’s important to present the facts for those willing to discuss actual evidence and not just throw out partisan bromides.
My apologies to the cat.
Lee, to which 6 lane roads do you refer?
One example of a 6-lane road is the one from Georgetown west to the county line.
Another is the 4 and 6 lanes between Greenwood and Abbeville.
Another is the 4 and 6 lanes parallel to I-77 for miles through Lancaster and Chester Counties.
The connector to the beach from I-95 is a big boondoggle, trying to boost growth in Horry County, which is already the fastest growing county, and is an eyesore.
The point is not to pick on a few wastes of money, but to realize that there are many more, because of a system lack of asset management and life-cycle planning at DOT.
The most painful choice I remember in recent times was voting between David (Courgeous stand with ulterior motives)Beasley and Jim (Royal Flush) Hodges.
So don’t vote, if it hurts you.
By the way, all those leading the mobs against the flags of the Confederacy had ulterior motives.
All those unpatriotic libs who hate our country also hate our heritage. Hitler was smart to identify these socialist and use them to push his agenda. Coulter is now continuing this agenda.
Thanks for finally acknowledging Mark Sanford is a philosophical nut with zero people skills. Now please recognize that government is about people and both it and they must be respected for government to be managed effectively. Why ‘The State’ didn’t see Sanford’s failings in that regard four years ago is beyond me, as is why you fail to point out his continual shameless manipulation (to the point of falsification) of data to support his odd philosophical bent, particularly where public education at all levels is concerned. And Sanford wants to be president? Surely SC can rise up between now and November and protect the nation from yet another right-wing zealot by sending this one’s career to the same place his despicable pig-stunt feces went!
Lee, I’m actually going to agree with you (sort of). There are a handful of roads in the state that are over engineered for the traffic they carry. But you missed the biggest example, the I-185 toll road in Greenville County. This road carries very, very little traffic, probably about 1/10 it’s capacity. A look at the map reveals the problem. There are many free alternative routes that avoid the toll completely with very little loss in driving time. Had this road been built about 20 miles to the south it would have made a great shortcut between Columbia and the Anderson/Clemson area.
Contrast this with the other toll road in SC, the one on Hilton Head Island and the difference is striking. The Hilton Head road is very busy because it actually makes like more convenient.
But of course I-185 is a toll (privately funded) road so I’m not sure the “big government” label fully applies.
Why ‘The State’ didn’t see Sanford’s failings in that regard four years ago is beyond me,
Now that The State sees them, it STILL endorses him. Are Sanford’s tattered khakis that seductive?
Lee, as I went to Pawleys Island last weekend, I was driving on Hwy. 521 that you refer to. It is only 4 lanes, and it is heavily traveled. When will you quit lying?
Preston, your limited experience only put you on one 4-lane section of 521. The rest of the world is not identical. I’ll bet that it was a very empty, underutilized road, proving my point.
There are hundreds of such examples, but the root cause is a state which has too many paved roads, and no management system for managing and scheduling the maintenance in a 20-year budget projection, as proper engineering practice would dictate.
Lee, on my way I drove the entire span of 521 from Greeleyville to Georgetown. That is the specific area that you sight in your above post. At no point is it 6 lanes. I am highly familiar with this road, as I drive it about 10 times a year. I am actually going back to Pawleys this weekend and will be glad to email you photos of this stretch of road, proving you wrong.
Your credibilty is zero.
Also, some of these roads you discuss may be currently underutilized, but a part of getting out ahead of traffic problems and preventing them before they happen. It is that lack of foresight that makes me wonder if you really are an engineer.
Do you really think all that empty stretch of 521 is necessary? For what? Are you old enough to remember how empty 521 was as a two-lane road?
Preston, you’d have better luck presenting factual information to the potted plant in the corner over there.
Bud, the “big government” label applies to any object, concept, or institution that is contrary to the fascist ideals. “lib” is applied similarly to people. This individual included such left-wingers as Lindsey Graham and George W Bush as “libs.”
For what? The people coming from Columbia, Greenville, Charlotte & Atlanta who are going to their $5 million beach houses in Debordieu, Prince George & Pawleys Island. It is their property tax & tourism revenue that keeps Georgetown County running. The least they deserve is the ability to not be stuck behind some bumpkin doing 35 in a 55, causing a traffic jam and potentially dangerous passing situation.
I have been making this trip for over 20 years and am aware of the changes that have gone on down there. The highway is most certainly warranted.
What of your credibility?
When we finally run out of oil, because Democrats wont let us explore for any new energy, those extra lanes will be valuable. ONe for bikes, one for horses as I go to my palatial estate on the Black River.
Dave, you apparently haven’t been getting your script from the neocons in DC. You guys are now on the bandwagon for alternative energy because “America is addicted to oil.” Check your trash folder for the update from Cheney.
Why should the taxpayers in the rest of the state and nation subsidize real estate development and environmental destruction in Georgetown County, by paying for roads, sewers, water and flood insurance that the free market thinks is a poor risk?
If Georgetown county wants more Yankees to move down there, tack on some fees to every house to pay the full cost of the roads, sewer and water up front.
Lee, you idiot. If there is no access, there are no people that want to come. By providing easy access to property owners, you increase the value. By increasing value, you increase the amount of tax revenue Georgetown County can raise. Thus, doing them a service.
Remember the disaster when the hurricane evacuation was botched in Charleston? 521 is the main exit route if you are trying to get inland from G’town,Pawleys et al. Oops, I forgot, you are omnipotent, or is it mentally impotent, and have all of the answers.
Also, am I a Yankee from Columbia?
I am not against roads. I am against paying for the road to subsidize some real estate developer who wants a falsely low price on his houses. If the buyers really want a wider road, let the real estate developers pay for it in advance, and tack the cost onto the houses they sell. Ditto to the water, sewer and flood insurance.
State government is bloated because it is being abused to make a handful of people rich.
A major failure of our public education system can be seen in the posts of Preston, who is probably a nice fellow with a good job, with a total misunderstanding of what government is supposed to be in America.
Government is not supposed to borrow money in order to subsidize real estate developers, in order to generate more property taxes for bigger bureaucracies and fatter salaries. That just leaves a bigger pile of debt as the excuse for more borrowing to clearcut and pave more land, for more property taxes….
Preston, the government is supposed to borrow money to subsidize tax cuts for the wealthy and wars and leave a bigger pile of debt for the next generation. Lee will give you some crap response to that but Warren Buffet, who knows a little bit more than Lee about all this, will tell you the tax cuts are a bad idea.
Warren Buffet pays very little taxes, relative to his wealth. Most of his stocks are never sold, but traded in tax-free exchanges.
Clinton and the Democrats already cut the top bracket on holdings such as Buffet’s, so that when he does sell, he only pays 14%, less than most wage workers. That tax cut to Wall Street was hidden by the smoke screen of the Clinton tax increase on the middle class.
Yep, brown eyes (full of crap) knows more than Warren Buffett, yes sir.
I know Buffet has his own interests at heart in his tax policies, not your interests. If you actually invested even a small amount of your own money, you would already know about Clinton’s 1993 Tax Cuts for the Rich, and coattail onto Buffett and the investment bankers who put Clinton into office.
Brown Eyes, Buffett has his bank balance cubed more credibility that your fantasy claims.
You are full of crap.
Lee, my original point on this thread was that you make things up tho support your argument (521 as a 6 lane road is not true). By having it as a four lane road, it provides access for people to come and spend money on the coast. This in turn provides jobs and revenues for the people that live in the area. The property taxes send their kids to school. Are these things bad?
Ultimately, all of the funds for 521 come from the federal government anyway. You need to broaden the way you look at things and see the big picture.
Also, the developments that I refered to are all self-contained. No tax money built any of the roads or clear cut any of the land, the developers did. You may want to rethink your arguments. For a free-marketeer, you really have some pent-up agression towards people that make a lot of money.
I was talking in generalities about how it is not the role of government to in America to build roads, sewer, and water to developers. You brought up specific developments in Georgetown County as being great because they bring in taxes, which is an improper way to think about development and government.
Our state is being despoiled by developers who are subsidized by the governments they control. Everyone’s thinking is skewed by income deductions for mortgage interest, depreciation pass-throughs in REITs, governments borrowing money with bonds, property taxes, federal road subsidies, federal flood insurance, etc.
Get rid of income taxes, property taxes, estate taxes, government borrowing for local infrasture subsidies, and federal flood insurance, and let the free market downsize the sprawl to what people really are willing to buy with their own money.
Back to my original point about road maintenance costs in SC: we only have such high costs because the state owns too many miles of road, 3 times the national average. Driving on a crowded road from time to time is a cost of traveling, just like fuel. The Gimme Now Generation needs to learn that economic reality and stop asking government to widen every road to handle a few hours of peak traffic a week.
Lee, it is you who miss the point. You made a statement that was FALSE. I called you on it, and you have managed to make the issue about how I should wait in traffic and enjoy it, rather than your own credibility.
The specific road that you initially referred to incorrectly as having 6 lanes is legitimate. I am sorry if you feel you pay too much in taxes. I would directly benefit from the repeal of the estate tax, but if people like Paris Hilton or the Frist kids are any example, we need to double it. Again, I digress.
As for the traffic on the road, have you been to Myrtle Beach in January? I have. There is no traffic. Should we have limited that area to two lane roads? I’m sure you think so.
If you search this web page, you will see that it was YOU, Preston, who first mentioned Hwy 521. I mentioned the FACT that there are lots of empty roads in this state, and some who just like to be disagreeable employed the schoolyard bluff of daring me to name a few.
It is not about FEELING that I pay too much taxes. It is about the American way of life being subverted by the fascist model of socialist public works projects as a subsidy of investors. I also don’t like wasting money just because you can get it from the federal government, because that tax money is ours, and the debt is our children’s.
In fact, I just drove back from Georgetown last Saturday. I remember the Grand Strand when it was a much nicer place. I confess to having been the engineer or project manager on several large jobs down there, but at least they were something nice, and we did pay for all the roads, sewer, and water, instead of getting some cronies on county council to stick the taxpayers for them.
Lee, you made specific reference to “One example of a 6-lane road is the one from Georgetown west to the county line.” That road has a name, and I correctly labeled it 521 for you. That is a direct quote from your post of Jun 12, 2006 2:48:16 PM.
Again, the statement I quote above is NOT TRUE. That is MY point.
I referred to lots of roads “with 4 and 6 lanes” which are unnecessary. Your focus on a detail of your own creation is a mental device to avoid the real issues of wholesale waste and misuse of government power.
If you don’t disagree with me on those larger issues, good for you.
Brown Eyes, you had your pants pulled down there. He caught you red-handed with your own quote.
The “quote” you are unable to find, cut and paste? You dope.
Lee, are you speaking to me about the cut & paste? I cited the quote, date and time. Please scroll above if you have a problem with your own specificity.
If people post lies on this board to bolster their argument, should they not be outed as liars? Without trust or truth, your arguments are pointless.
Preston, I was asking the disruptive cypberpunk Huh? to cut an paste what I never wrote.
Stop overusing the smear of “liar” about some detail, or you will look silly. I am raising big issues, and you are trying to scrape together some detail to play games. If you can’t discuss the real issues, why bother to post?
Are you happy with the rampant development, and subsidies to developers using tax money? If you think that sort of 1930s socialist/fascist model is good, make a case for it, instead of arguing whether some highway you use is 4 lanes or 6 at some point. Heck, just try to justify that empty highway, for a start.