Thursday, Jul 25, 2024

Is This Biden’s Last Chance To Pass A Big Spending Bill?

This week, as Joe Biden’s presidency passed the six month mark, his legislative policy agenda, which started out with the March passage of his $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill filled with progressive spending measures, now appears to be stalled.

Biden also failed to meet his goal to get 70% of the American people vaccinated against the Covid-19 by July 4. At the same time, his administration seems powerless to stop the rapid rise of infection rates across the country due to the spread of the more virulent delta variant of the virus.

Biden had promised the American people that if enough of them would get vaccinated, the remaining pandemic restrictions, such as the indoor mask-wearing requirement, would be dropped, as indeed happened in May and June in states across the country. But with the current resurgence of the delta variant, Los Angeles County last week reinstated its indoor mask-wearing mandate, even for those who have been fully vaccinated, suggesting that other Covid-related restrictions and lockdowns may return if the rate of infections continues to climb, reversing much of the progress that has been made in recovering from the crippling economic, educational, and social side-effects of the pandemic.

The reinstatement of a government mask-wearing requirement for vaccinated individuals is a particular problem for the Biden administration, because many will see it as a warning that the vaccine does not offer adequate protection against infection. It is also inconsistent with current CDC guidelines, which calls indoor mask restrictions unnecessary for those who have been vaccinated.

From the beginning of his presidency, Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin have cited the need for an all-out response to the economic as well as the public health challenges posed by the pandemic as the main justification for Biden’s unprecedented spending proposals. These include not only the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill which passed on the strength of Democrat votes alone, but also Biden’s twin infrastructure (American Jobs Plan) and relief proposals (American Families Plan) announced in May.

He claims that the paired bills, which call for a total of $6 trillion in additional spending for fiscal year 2022, were necessary to complete the country’s economic recovery from the pandemic. The proposed infrastructure bill has since been divided into two parts. The first would fund $1.2 trillion worth of traditional infrastructure projects, which has attracted enough Republican support to pass the Senate with a 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority. The second part is a much larger $3.5 trillion package of spending programs for what Democrats call “human infrastructure.” Republicans have rejected that part of Biden’s infrastructure package as thinly disguised wasteful social welfare and entitlement spending, which will harm the economy by creating another disincentive for pandemic-idled workers to return to their pre-Covid jobs, and further stimulate runaway inflation by stoking consumer demand with more government handouts of cash.


Biden ran for president based largely on Democrat accusations that the Trump administration botched the federal government’s response to the pandemic. After taking office, Biden claimed the credit for the success of the crash program he inherited from Trump, Operation Warp Speed, which developed and mass produced three effective Covid vaccines within a record amount of time. Biden also claimed credit for the nationwide distribution plan for the vaccines, most of which he also inherited from the Trump administration. It was initially successful in rapidly immunizing the most vulnerable segments of the American population to the virus, and reduced the rate of new cases and deaths by more than 90% from their January peak.

But by mid-April, after Biden’s first 100 days in office, the rate of vaccinations peaked at about three million a day, and then rapidly began to fall off. At the same time, Democrat officials in cities and states around the country proved to be reluctant to end the lockdowns and other Covid-related restrictions which had closed the nation’s schools and many of its small businesses, even as the rate of new infections and deaths from the virus continued to decline.

The Biden administration claimed credit for the rapid economic recovery from the pandemic, including the creation of more than three million jobs during the five months of his presidency. But by that point, in June, worrying economic signs began to appear indicating that the more generous relief measures in Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid stimulus package were becoming counterproductive. Because they gave unemployed workers a financial incentive to stay home to collect $300-a-week federal unemployment benefits rather than return to their former jobs, new job creation leveled off at nearly 6.8 million jobs below its pre-pandemic peak.


The federal unemployment payments, which were scheduled to continue through Labor Day in September, have created an artificial labor shortage which has slowed the pace of the economic recovery and contributed to the supply chain disruptions and consumer product shortages. This became apparent when more than 20 Republican-governed states across the country suspended payment of the federal unemployment benefit, leading to an immediate uptick in hiring and an acceleration of economic growth in those states, while the others still paying those benefits lagged behind.

In general, the post-Covid economic recovery has been much more vigorous in Republican-governed states such as Florida and Texas, which had taken the lead in reopening schools and restaurants and relaxing other pandemic restrictions. Meanwhile, in Democrat-controlled states such as New York, New Jersey, and California, outspoken public opposition has been growing against Covid restrictions, including continued school closings, which have now been proven to be largely ineffective and unnecessary in halting the spread of the virus.

For example, in California, more than a million voters signed a petition which has resulted in September 14 recall election for Democrat Gavin Newsom. In addition to Newsom’s botched handling of the pandemic, voters were further infuriated by the governor’s November 6 attendance at a party with his rich political supporters at the exclusive French Laundry restaurant, violating the rules which he had imposed on the state.


The most worrying recent economic development has been a sharp spike in the rate of inflation. In the month between May and June, the inflation rate jumped by 0.9% to reach 5.4% on an annual basis. It reflects the biggest retail price jumps since 2008 for everything from new and used cars and trucks to restaurant meals, hotel stays, many basic food items in the supermarket, and the price of gasoline at the pump.

Biden administration officials and most liberal economists insist that the spike in prices was both foreseen and inevitable due to the release of pent-up demand for consumer goods, restaurant dining, and leisure travel when the Covid restrictions were dropped. They still confidently predict that the inflation rate will quickly drop back to around the 2% target rate set by the Federal Reserve, as reopening businesses enable the supply of consumer goods and services to rapidly catch up with the demand.

But Larry Summers, who served as Secretary of the Treasury during the Clinton administration and headed President Obama’s National Economic Council, vocally disagrees. He joined with most conservative economists back in March to warn that Biden’s relief package was “the least responsible fiscal macroeconomic policy we’ve have had for the last 40 years.” Summers also said at that time there was a one-in-three chance the excess spending could lead to a return of 1970s-style stagflation, forcing the Fed to raise interest rates and pushing the economy back into recession.

Four months later, Summer’s predicted worst-case economic scenario seems to be coming true. In an interview last week with Politico, Summers said, “These [current economic] figures and labor market tightness and the behavior of housing markets and asset prices are all rising in a more concerning way than I worried about a few months ago. This raises my degree of concern about an economic overheating scenario. There are huge uncertainties in the outlook, but I do believe the focus of concern right now should be on overheating.”

In congressional testimony last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said that the Fed planned to continue its current policy of keeping interest rates artificially low and injecting capital into the financial markets to further stimulate the economic recovery, while keeping a watchful eye on the impact of rising prices. “We’re experiencing a big uptick in inflation, bigger than many expected, bigger certainly than I expected,” Powell admitted. “We’re trying to understand whether it’s something that will pass through fairly quickly or whether, in fact, we need to act.”


But during a White House appearance Monday to celebrate the six month mark of his presidency, Biden responded to the rising concerns about inflation by continuing to emphasize the urgent need for Congress to pass both parts of his massive infrastructure spending proposal. Contrary to widely accepted economic theory, Biden argued that the injection of so much additional money into an already overheating economy would eliminate rather than exacerbate the current spike in the inflation rate.

“Whatever different views people have about the current price increases, we should be united in one thing: passage of the bipartisan infrastructure framework, which we shook hands on [with Republicans],” Biden said. “And my Build Back Better Plan [the additional $3.5 trillion proposal supported only by Democrats] will be a force for achieving lower prices for Americans looking ahead.”

Biden contended that his proposed investments in rebuilding roads, bridges, and expanding broadband access would eliminate the economic “chokepoints” that currently raise prices on goods. But the president chose to ignore the inconvenient fact that it will take months, and in many cases, years, for these projects to be completed, enabling those chokepoints to be eliminated.

“If your primary concern is about inflation, you should be even more enthusiastic about this plan,” Biden said. “We can’t afford not to make these investments.”

In answer to a reporter’s question, Biden dismissed the credibility of all those economists, including Summers, who have been warning that his spending plans would bring on high inflation. “There’s nobody suggesting unchecked [inflation] is on its way. No serious economist,” Biden insisted.


But American families are being reminded daily at the supermarket and the gas pump about the spike in prices, and their growing concern is reflected in a sharp decline in the University of Michigan’s consumer confidence index reported last week reaching a five-month low, wiping out the gains from the post-pandemic economic recovery to date. Consumers now expect inflation to rise 4.8% over the next year, the highest since August 2008.

“Inflation has put added pressure on living standards, especially on lower and middle income households, and caused postponement of large discretionary purchases, especially among upper income households,” Richard Curtin, director of the University of Michigan survey, said in a statement.

“Consumers’ complaints about rising prices on homes, vehicles, and household durables” reached an all-time record, Curtin added.

Nevertheless, American consumers are still expected to spend a lot of money this summer on leisure activities and vacation travel after more than a year of pandemic lockdowns. There is so much pent-up consumer demand for merchandise in short supply that year-old used cars, for example, are currently selling at new car prices, and household appliance buyers are being told they will have to wait for months for delivery. Despite the long list of consumer items whose prices have spiked, and which are currently on back order, a separate report last week showed that retail sales unexpectedly increased in June, across a broad range of spending categories.

The Biden White House and Democrat strategists are keenly aware that voter worries about the persistence of inflation, the resurgence of the virus, and the long-term future of the economic recovery are closely interwoven, and will likely determine whether Democrats will be able to maintain their tenuous control over the House and Senate after the November 2022 midterm election.


Biden’s initial popularity as a candidate and as a president were closely tied to his promises to bring the pandemic under control and to engineer a quick and lasting economic recovery with an unprecedented level of fiscal stimulus and domestic social welfare spending.

The durability of that quick economic recovery now clearly depends on the Biden administration’s ability to control the new Covid outbreak. If the number of infections keeps climbing, public confidence in the vaccines will be undermined. Liberal political pressure groups, such as teachers’ unions, will pressure their state and local Democrat officials to reinstate school closures and other unnecessary Covid restrictions, stifling the recovery and undermining Biden’s popularity and credibility.

The 2020 election reduced the Democrat majority in the House of Representative to just a handful of votes. The Senate is now evenly divided 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans. House Speaker Pelosi is in full control of that chamber, but Democrat control of the Senate rests on Vice President Kamala Harris’s ability to cast a tie-breaking vote. For that to happen, all 50 Senate Democrats need to remain united in support of the Biden administration’s radically progressive legislative proposals.

Progressive Democrats have been infuriated by the public pushback by a handful of Democrat moderates, led by Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, against calls for the elimination of the Senate filibuster rule. As long as the rule remains in place, the White House needs the support of at least 10 Senate Republicans to keep most of its proposed legislation from being blocked by a filibuster.

Biden’s current $3.5 billion Democrat-only supported infrastructure bill is an exception to that rule. It is being pushed forward under the special Senate budget reconciliation rules which apply only to financial measures, and which will still require unanimous support from all 50 Democrat senators to pass. The ability of the Biden White House and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to maintain that unity will be tested in the weeks ahead, as Republican support for the bipartisan part of the proposal has started to crumble due to the demand by Schumer that GOP senators vote to approve the measure this week, before its details have been written down.


Members of the House and Senate returned to Washington this week after a long a July 4 holiday recess during which they had an opportunity to see for themselves growing voter concern over a range of disturbing recent developments, in addition to rising prices and the resurgence of the virus.

These include a nationwide spike in violent crime and gun violence, combined with a reduction in the efficiency of local police department due to progressive calls for their defunding, and an epidemic of early retirement by their demoralized and disillusioned veteran police officers. Parents are also worried about the classroom time their children lost during more than a year of school lockdowns, as well as the race-based anti-American curriculum being taught due to liberal pressure on the nation’s public school systems.

In light of those growing concerns, the current progressive Democrat legislative agenda seems increasingly out of touch, or even opposed, to real-world mainstream voter priorities. Most voters are not concerned with imagined legislative threats to minority voter rights in Republican-governed states, or obsessed by the hatred of Donald Trump fueling Democrat efforts to keep the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol in the headlines. Instead of defunding their local police departments, passing more gun laws that won’t be enforced, and condemning police officers as racists for doing their job enforcing law and order, most voters, and especially those living in poorer, minority-dominated communities, want to see more police in the streets to protect them against the rising wave of gun violence that has been sweeping the nation over the past year.


When a majority of American voters chose Joe Biden over Donald Trump last November, they thought they knew what kind of president he would turn out to be. They thought they were getting a familiar, moderately liberal Washington institutionalist, who served in the Senate for 36 years, then as vice president for eight years. They thought he was the Joe Biden who has continued to preach bipartisanship and who promised to make a serious effort to reach across and find common ground with Republicans. But they were wrong.

Six months into his presidency, it is clear that as president, Biden has reversed course. He has rejected bipartisan compromise and committed himself to go “big and bold” on the radical progressive tax and spending agenda, punishing successful entrepreneurs and investors with punitive tax increases, and promising racial and social “equity” rather than equality, to be implemented by a gigantic, government-driven wealth transfer scheme.

Biden has fully embraced the entire woke agenda of Black Lives Matter and the Democrat Socialists, led by Senator Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, devoted to fighting climate change, racial justice and the free enterprise system.


When talking to the American people, Biden is much more concerned about making partisan political points to achieve his goals than telling the truth. In his Monday remarks, Biden was not embarrassed to falsely deny that for months, respected economists such as Larry Summers have warned that his huge spending proposals would lead to the current spike in inflation and threaten the future of the post-pandemic economic recovery.

Last week, Biden gave an impassioned speech denouncing Republican efforts to shore up state election laws as a threat to democracy and the voting rights of minority group members, which he knows is simply not true. Back in March, Biden made similar, clearly false accusations about the Georgia election law passed by Republicans in the state legislature, which, in fact, expanded opportunities for minorities in Georgia to cast their votes. At that time, a usually liberal Washington Post fact-checker awarded Biden four “Pinocchios” for his blatant attempt to mislead the American people.

Another “big lie” promoted by the Biden administration and the progressive/socialist ideologues who are now dictating its policies is that their radical agenda is devoted to protecting the rights and welfare of America’s minorities and working class. In fact, Biden’s more thoughtful Republican critics are having no trouble proving that just the opposite is true. On issue after issue, the policies promoted by the Biden administration will wind up hurting rather than helping members of the working class and minorities.


Let’s start with current spike in inflation, which hurts members of working class American families the most, because they have the least amount of money to spend on much more expensive essentials, ranging from food on their table to gasoline for their cars and rent for their apartments. Gasoline at the pump now costs at least a dollar more per gallon than it did last year, and the “green energy” measures in Biden’s infrastructure bill are designed to drive the price even higher. Biden’s plan to eliminate fossil fuel-powered generating plants over the next decade will also send household electricity bills through the roof.

Biden’s pledge of allegiance to the liberal climate change establishment has resulted in measures in his infrastructure bills that would undermine America’s hard-won energy independence. They are intended to destroy this country’s fossil fuel industry and its millions of good-paying working-class jobs, and would once again make this country energy-dependent on hostile foreign nations such as China, which manufactures the solar energy panels it exports to the US using slave labor. However, Biden and the progressives are more than willing to overlook that inconvenient fact if it enables them to punish the domestic fossil fuel industry.

Working class families have also suffered disproportionately from the economic dislocations due to the pandemic. They were the ones whose low-paying jobs were lost when the hotel and hospitality industries, as well as hundreds of thousands of other “non-essential” small businesses across the country, were forced shut by local and state Democrat officials.


In recent months, the national unemployment has stopped falling, and is now stuck at 5.9 percent, roughly double what it was when the pandemic first started in March 2020. At that point, the hiring boom triggered by Trump’s tax and regulation cutting economic policies virtually eliminated the chronic unemployment among minority and low-skilled workers, and raised their wage levels faster than any other segment of the American labor market.

When Covid hit, those historic gains for minority workers were wiped out, and many of those jobs which were lost to the pandemic are probably never coming back. As a result, no labor segment of America’s post-pandemic jobs recovery is lagging more than America’s working class. Today’s unemployment rates for teenagers (9.9 percent) and those without high-school degrees (10.2 percent) have suffered the most serious setbacks, along with minority group workers, and they are among those slowest to benefit from the current post-Covid recovery.


Working class and minority group members are also the primary victims of liberal and progressive Democrat tolerance for the nationwide spurt in deadly gun violence and hooliganism, which they have partly endorsed under the cynical guise of “mostly peaceful protests” since George Floyd’s death at the hands of a white cop in Minneapolis last May.

That tolerance has undermined the personal security of millions of minority and working-class families living in the poor urban communities that are most dependent on America’s thin blue line of dedicated police officers for their safety. They do not live in gated communities under the protection of private security guards, or have the economic resources needed to leave their unsafe neighborhoods. The Black Lives Matter movement’s Defund the Police initiative and the disregard of Democrat officials has forced police officers to stand down from doing their job to avoid the risk that they will be falsely accused of “systemic racism” and the use of undue force the next time they intervene to protect an inner city neighborhood against a dangerous criminal.

As a result, many famous neighborhoods in the nation’s largest cities have also become veritable war zones, in which the sound of gunshots is also becoming routine. For example, last week there was another shooting incident in Manhattan’s Time’s Square, in a violent confrontation between a black shooter riding in a Mercedes car which collided with a dirt biker. Last weekend, a Major League Baseball game in progress at a DC ballpark was suspended when the crowd panicked and fled upon hearing the sound of multiple gunshots fired by the occupants of two cars just outside the stadium. Three people were wounded, one of whom was a female spectator at the game.


Another major class of Covid economic casualties are the working-class parents who had to give their jobs last year to stay home with their kids and help them with their Zoom lessons when Democrat officials ordered the public schools to be closed.

Those who were not given the opportunity to work from home were forced to sacrifice their jobs, setting them back for years. Working women, who were the first to be pressed into service during the pandemic as emergency caregivers and child-care workers, also suffered disproportionately and have yet to recover.

But the most tragic casualties of the pandemic were the millions of American school-age children who lost a year or more of their educations ⁠— which they will never be able to fully make up. Working class parents also learned from the pandemic that Democrats, from Biden down to state and local officials, are more eager to cater to the interests of the teachers’ unions which are major contributors to their political campaigns than the needs of their school children.

When public school teachers in Democrat-governed cities preferred to stay home and collect federal unemployment checks rather than take the slight risk of infection from returning to their classrooms, their students were always forced to go without in-person instruction.


As the pandemic progressed, many liberal parents discovered that their elected Democrat officials did not have their children’s best interests at heart. Instead, the children were being used as captive pawns in public school systems which were being run primarily for the benefit of the unions and the Democrat officials who protected the school establishment’s interests against the meddling of nosy parents.

Inner-city Democrat politicians have long treated public schools as their private fiefdom, consistent siding with the interests of their union benefactors over students and parents. Deprived by the same Democrats of meaningful school choices, working class and minority parents and their children have been trapped in a system that funnels more and more government money into poorly run schools. Over the past few years, the liberal-dominated public school systems have abandoned the essential academic subjects. Instead, the public schools and the unions which run them are teaching a politically-motivated curriculum based upon the false liberal ideologies of critical race theory and social justice, which fail to meet the basic educational needs of the students.

This has sparked another growing public school parent revolt which cuts across traditional party lines. It has given Republicans an issue which can win over those black, Latino, and other working-class voters who had previously automatically cast their ballots for Democrat candidates without ever giving it a second thought. Now that they are seeing a clear choice between the Democrats and unions on one side, and the educational best interests of their children on the other, the choices that more of these parents are making are already starting to alter the outcomes of major elections, such as the recent New York Democrat mayoral primary narrowly won by Eric Adams, a black former cop who ran on a tough law-and-order platform.


Yet another issue in which Biden’s ostensibly liberal policies actually run counter to the best interests of the working class is immigration, and more specifically, the now unofficially open southern border with Mexico, which is seeing the greatest increase in illegal crossings in over 20 years.

Biden campaigned last year on a promise to dismantle Trump’s policies which had succeeded in reducing the number of illegal border crossings to a relative trickle. The day he took office, Biden ordered an immediate halt to the construction of Trump’s border wall and forbade immigration officials from deporting any more illegal immigrants except for the most violent criminals. Then the White House feigned surprise when its policies inspired a new wave of immigrants from Central America to storm the border, believing that if they survived the perilous journey, Biden and the Democrats would let them to enter and stay in the country indefinitely.

Since Biden took office, the number of “encounters” recorded at the southern border between immigrants trying to enter the country illegally and the officers of the Customs and Border Patrol agency has climbed steadily to reach approximately 190,000, bringing the total number of such “encounters” to 1.12 million since the start of the 2021 fiscal year last October, compared to 459,000 in all of 2020, when Trump was still in office.

Both Republican and Democrat lawmakers representing the border regions have tried to draw public attention to the humanitarian crisis at the border, including the cruel abandonment of many thousands of unaccompanied children. In response, the Biden administration has played cynical word games and pretended to address the illegal immigration problem “at its source” by sending Vice President Kamala Harris to pay a symbolic visit to the poor, crime-ridden Central American countries from which most illegal immigrants start out.


Democrat strategists actually want more illegal immigrants to cross the border out of the belief that they will ultimately be able to pass legislation granting them amnesty, including a path to citizenship, and allowing them to become a large new group of reliably Democrat voters for decades to come. However, most Democrats don’t dare say so in public, knowing that according to opinion polls, most American voters are opposed to unlimited immigration and amnesty for those already here illegally.

Another key point that most Democrats refuse to mention in public is that many of the immigrants who are in this country illegally are willing to work for lower wages “off the books.” That gives them an unfair advantage in the competition for jobs against millions of low-skilled and minority working-class American citizens.


Despite these cynical policies, many Democrats still assume that most working-class and minority voters will continue to vote for them out of habit, as well as ignorance that most current liberal policies are detrimental to their best interests. That assumption began to change when Donald Trump launched his successful populist message directed at the long-neglected working-class voters in the Midwest Rust Belt, who gave him just enough Electoral College votes to win the 2016 election.

Those same groups of long-neglected formerly Democrat voters almost gave Trump another upset victory last November. Democrat party strategists who celebrated their surprisingly narrow victory in the contest for control of the House, Senate, and White House were disturbed when they realized that even in the process of losing to Biden, Trump managed to win the support of a record high percentage of Latino voters, especially in Florida, with its large Cuban-American voting population.


In an opinion piece published by the National Review, Florida’s Republican Senator Marco Rubio, the proud son of Cuban-American immigrants, calls the Biden administration’s plan to ram his $3.5 trillion spending proposal through the Senate with only 50 votes a “power grab” that would result in a sweeping restructuring of the economy and “fundamentally transform America into a far-left fever dream [by] insert[ing] themselves into every single chapter of Americans’ lives from start to finish.

“We saw their desire for control throughout the pandemic and the lockdowns. We saw their desire to rewrite history by indoctrinating our children with critical race theory. . . And now, we are seeing the economic framework of what it looks like to have government at the center of our lives, families, and communities,” Rubio added.

Rubio accuses Biden of breaking his campaign promise last year “to be a president who seeks not to divide, but to unify.” Instead, the Florida senator argues, Biden and the Democrats are trying to leverage their narrow victory in last November’s election into “control over every aspect of American life. . .

“For our nation’s children, it means more federal control over their early education. . . in the form of a system of universal child care. . . Instead of providing working parents with options to allow greater flexibility — as Republicans did in 2017 with the expanded child tax credit for working families — Biden now wants to funnel your kids, starting as toddlers, into a government-run system.”

Rubio also objects to Biden’s intention to transform the child tax credit into a “government child allowance” that would give cash to parents who aren’t working, and suggests that Democrats see the child allowance as a first step toward the progressive utopian dream of a universal basic income, the concept that Andrew Yang proposed when he was running for the 2020 Democrat presidential nomination.

According to Rubio, Biden and the Democrats are also trying to find a way to slip a measure into the same massive “infrastructure” bill which would create a backdoor path to citizenship for millions of immigrants living in this country illegally. That would encourage even more Central American migrants and their families to storm the US-Mexican border on the basis of a reasonable expectation that the Biden administration would defy current federal immigration laws by allowing them to enter and stay in the country.


Even though the mainstream media is still reflexively promoting Biden and his administration’s rationale for their race-based progressive agenda, the truth is finally beginning to reach the members of traditionally Democrat minority and working class voters. That is why progressives are even more determined to get as many of their agenda items into Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending bill.

Although the Biden administration is only six months into its first term, Democrats are in a growing panic over fear that this bill will be their last opportunity to get legislation passed into law before they will likely lose control over the House and Senate in next year’s midterm election.



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