UCSD professors Gary Jacobson and Keith Poole (emeritus) say that political partisanship is at an all-time high, yet, come spring, the parties will need to cooperate. “There’s no choice,”  Poole posits, “we’re broke.”
  • UCSD professors Gary Jacobson and Keith Poole (emeritus) say that political partisanship is at an all-time high, yet, come spring, the parties will need to cooperate. “There’s no choice,” Poole posits, “we’re broke.”
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Political parties have never been so ideologically divided — and downright nasty about it — since the Reconstruction that followed the Civil War, say two political scientists who study and track political polarization. But both professors, who are connected with UCSD, say that the Republicans and Democrats will temporarily puff on the peace pipe early next year so that the nation doesn’t plunge off the so-called fiscal cliff.

The professors are Gary Jacobson and Keith T. Poole, who is emeritus from UCSD and is now at the University of Georgia.

Keith Poole

Keith Poole

The nation faces the fiscal cliff at the end of this year unless the warring factions somehow reach a détente, however temporary. Without a compromise, a number of tax increases and deep spending cuts will go into effect next year, hammering the economy. For example, last year’s temporary payroll tax cut would be out the window; workers would then be hit with a 2 percent tax increase. Tax cuts for business would expire. Taxes related to the new healthcare law would begin taking a bite. At the same time, spending slashes that were part of last year’s debt-ceiling deal would go into effect.

Congress’s inability to do anything “would create turmoil in the financial markets and, at worst, a serious recession,” says Jacobson. “More orthodox Republicans are not going to let that happen. They have an economic stake in not going over the cliff. After the election, Congress will kick the can down the road, probably into 2013.” And then the two parties, while continuing their mutual animosity, would be forced to do something.

Today, the so-called Tea Party Republicans have huge sway in their party. Moderate “country club” Republicans don’t have the numbers, notes Jacobson. “But they have the money.” Wall Street will see that a recession would raise havoc and the capital markets could fall into chaos once again, particularly if the nation teetered close to default. “Cooler heads will prevail.” Unlike the Tea Partiers, those cooler heads have the lobbying clout.

Voters of both parties would push Congress, too. If the Republicans won the presidency and got substantial majorities in both houses of Congress, and adopted the budget offered by vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan — or one very similar to it — “It would devastate a number of popular programs: Medicare, Medicaid, farm programs, highway building, health research,” says Jacobson. “People in the business community would realize what the consequences would be.” (One of San Diego’s most prosperous industries, biotech, depends on government largesse. If Ryan’s budget led to a compromise that would slash military spending, San Diego could really be hit.)

Jacobson has recently written articles about President Obama and the Tea Party, the electoral origins of legislative gridlock, and the historical background of polarized presidential politics. His work shows partisanship escalating over recent years. Among the most important reasons are the movement of Southern conservatives into the Republican Party after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the big chasm on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

He notes, for example, that voter ticket splitting (voting for a Republican president and Democratic senator, for example) has fallen sharply since 1972 as the ideological and social breaches widened.

Poole coauthored a seminal 2006 book, Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches. Income inequality and political partisanship ran on a remarkably similar curve during the days of the robber barons. Then, from 1913 to 1957, income inequality and political partisanship fell in tandem. But, beginning in 1977, as wealth and income disparity soared, so did ideological divisions and legislative stalemates.

There are several reasons for these phenomena: in the 1970s, immigration restrictions loosened. “The foreign born became poorer and poorer relative to the native-born population,” says Poole. But so many of the immigrants do not vote. Increasingly, the people voting were those better off financially. These voters favor middle-class entitlements, such as Medicare and Social Security, “but are less sympathetic to redistribution programs, such as welfare, food stamps, and Medicaid.” Thus, the partisanship has ballooned. In addition, the pouring of bailout money into the financial sector “reinforces the ideological divide.”

There were other factors, such as the South turning Republican. All told, “Moderates of both political parties are being eliminated. The parties are dominated by activists and more intense people,” says Poole.

The next book Poole is coauthoring will come out next year: Political Bubbles. The thesis is that behind every financial crisis is a political bubble: just as financial bubbles are the result of greed, political bubbles are the product of rigid ideologies, ineffective government, and special interests. The result is legislated leniency, regulatory failure, and more risk-taking — reasons the two phenomena run together.

That describes today. In 2007, the richest 1 percent’s share of national income peaked at 23 percent — the same as in — er, uh —1929. When the bubble burst in 2008, the percentage dipped, but it is climbing again. So the gap between the rich and everybody else is exceedingly wide by historical standards — just like the political ideological gap.

So what will happen when America faces the fiscal cliff in late 2012? Like Jacobson, Poole believes that nothing will happen until after the election. “Then they will have to do something about the fiscal cliff,” says Poole. “They will kick the can down the road into March, February, January, and then either President Obama or President Romney will work out a deal with Congress. There is no choice. We are broke.”

Once the nation dodges that fiscal cliff, the political partisanship will escalate again. Hatred and vituperation will dominate politics, just as they have since the 1970s, only probably worse this time. If one party sweeps into the presidency and takes both houses of Congress with a heavy majority, then some nonpartisan, significant legislation might pass, but neither Jacobson nor Poole expects a one-party landslide. ■

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Comments

Dennis Aug. 15, 2012 @ 11:13 a.m.

Let everything expire on Jan 1 2013 and start over again! It's the only way to get past the no taxes pledge to Grover Norquist by the republicans.

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Don Bauder Aug. 15, 2012 @ 3:20 p.m.

But Norquist will make them take the pledge for 2013 and beyond. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 15, 2012 @ 6:08 p.m.

“People in the business community would realize what the consequences would be.”

NOT! Examine the record.

I'd like to see these guys in a CONCLUSIVE discussion with Steiglitz and Krugman.

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Don Bauder Aug. 15, 2012 @ 7:14 p.m.

I agree with Jacobson that Wall Street, at least, would come to its senses, realizing the seriousness of going over the fiscal cliff. I think executives from consumer-oriented businesses would, too. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 16, 2012 @ 10:33 p.m.

The universal attitude is that if everybody else falls off the cliff, I can use my cash to pick up stocks, companies, hell--COUNTRIES, cheap. And thus become king of the heap--it's worked so far, why wouldn't it work one more time, or, go on forever? That's not even a question to those wise guys.

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Don Bauder Aug. 17, 2012 @ 7:11 a.m.

Deep problems in Europe, Japan, and India, combined with a slowdown in China, will hurt the U.S. economy, but possibly bolster its stock and bond markets. Capital is fleeing Europe in particular and landing in the U.S. And now the U.S. stock market is inversely related to the economy: the weaker the economy gets, the more liquidity the Federal Reserve pumps in, bolstering stocks. Wall Street's fortunes thrive as Main Street's crumble. However, this can't go on forever. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 17, 2012 @ 9:30 a.m.

True. I rest my case upon your last point.

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Don Bauder Aug. 17, 2012 @ 12:38 p.m.

Yes, but you originally asked if it could go on forever. I don't think so. I am hoping I am nimble enough to dump a good percentage of my stocks before everything crumbles. Trouble is, the only people who sell at the top are liars, in the main. Best, Don Bauder

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nokomisjeff Aug. 17, 2012 @ 8:33 a.m.

Actually, things are so bad, we hit the point of no return back in 2010. Nothing the government or Fed does will benefit the economy as a whole. Expect broad based debasement of the dollar, much more than the 30% planned debasement of the dollar(St.Louis Fed operating paper) in the next 10 years. The market is already giving very good signals of what lies ahead.

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Don Bauder Aug. 17, 2012 @ 8:44 a.m.

We face perhaps a decade of very weak economic growth, and perhaps worse. Central banks will keep flooding the world with cheap money. That money has to go somewhere. So bubbles will be created. Stocks? Bonds? Real estate again? Commodities? I wish I knew. Bonds are probably already in a bubble. Stocks and commodities may be close. Would appreciate your input on whither financial assets, Jeff. Best, Don Bauder

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nokomisjeff Aug. 17, 2012 @ 11:38 a.m.

Worst case is that the bubbles are similar to the action in 1921-1923 Weimar. Very possible. Looking at the gold/platinum spread, gold has been premium to platinum for almost a year and a half and that spells trouble right there. I'm really surprised that commodities haven't rallied more.....but the commercial interests seem to be selling into the rallies. Bonds....where do you expect bonds to be with rates so low? Bubble in bonds, I don't think so. Stocks are up because Europe sucks and the currencies are being debased as we speak.Stocks also went up in 1922 Weimar. Some real estate is doing well.....Farm land is at an all time high. I am loathe to predict how long the weak economic growth will linger because that's way above my pay grade. Have noticed a tendency in all margins of all sorts getting thinner, and much of that is a function of the increase in productivity we've seen since 1980. I don't think cash is king and I spend it as soon as I make it. Cash is a negative asset. I am worried about the possibility of a war and have been constructing models and algorithms for a game plan. If there is a war with Iran, bonds, dollar, oil, and gold will be the place to be. The options market prices in oil and gold already have an implied war premium in the next few months. Calls are not cheap, that's for sure.

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Don Bauder Aug. 17, 2012 @ 12:17 p.m.

Quite interesting. If we have a Weimar, won't bonds tank as inflation zooms? Bonds have been in a bull market since 1981...long time for a bull or a bear market. The combination of Fed printing money, panicked capital flooding to the U.S, and general economic weakness around the world has kept bonds prices rising. But can it last? Yes, stocks rose with inflation in Weimar, but stocks fell with inflation in 1970s. Yes, history suggests countries may try to get out of this with war. Romney's love affair with Israeli hawks is scary. Despite all the factors you have mentioned, deflation is still a possibility. The money crowd smacks its lips over more liquidity but nobody seems to ask WHY the central banks keep lowering rates. If economies looked strong, they would be raising rates. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 17, 2012 @ 3:37 p.m.

So what's gonna happen to the "fixed income" crowd? This shoulda been the theme of the dems tasteless ad where the whatshisname/Ryan character shoves the old lady in the wheelchair off the cliff.

A pox on both their houses.

Somebody's gotta STEP UP!

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Don Bauder Aug. 18, 2012 @ 3:31 p.m.

The fixed income crowd gets screwed as the Fed keeps lowering rates -- both short and long rates. Cash and bonds don't pay decent incomes -- forcing people into stocks. That's part of the Fed's strategy to pump up stocks. The Fed has no mandate to manipulate the stock market but the Fed exists for the benefit of the banks and the bankers, not the people. Best, Don Bauder

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nokomisjeff Aug. 17, 2012 @ 2:55 p.m.

Don, I wrote a great response to your excellent post, but the internet swallowed it up. I am going out for dinner right now, but will be sure to answer sometime this weekend.Jeff

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Don Bauder Aug. 17, 2012 @ 5:51 p.m.

I am looking forward to your response. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Aug. 17, 2012 @ 4:59 p.m.

The country is doomed. Ryan has a plan to get it out of debt and I applaud him, because he at least has a PLAN to try to right the ship, which no Ono else does. But his plan sucks, needs major revmaps-But once again it is a plan and a starting point. Obama hasn't done jack and the fact is he won't do jack with another 4 more years in office-HUGE disappointment. Arnold II. I don't think Romney or Ryan will be much better either. It is like choosing between Brown and Whitman, both sucked eggs but they were the two choices. I actually figured Brown might be able to help the CA gridlock, boy was I wrong. He is a cowards too.

All I know is we are not going to see ANY economic return until wee see a real estate come back, that won't happen until decent jobs starting being produced, and that is not going to happen until we start limiting the influence of labor markets that don;t play by the same rules we play by, and that won't happen until we get some leaders in place who have a set, and that is not going top happen before 2016.

Here is one of the reasons we are in this mess;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlAwaZ...!

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Don Bauder Aug. 17, 2012 @ 7:12 p.m.

I don't think the country is doomed. Most of the rest of the industrial world is hurting, too. There is too much debt, public and private, and central banks make things worse by driving interest rates so low. Capital markets are casinos. Wealth and income inequality is horrendous and a result of the deliberate destruction of the middle class in the U.S. Corruption is rampant, particularly on Wall Street and in the banking industry. Many corporations' books are phony as a three dollar bill. Greed forces corporations and Wall Street to play only for the very short term. We are not a producing country; our economy is excessively fixated on shifting money around, or financial engineering. These are just a few of the problems. But we're not doomed. We escaped the Robber Baron era. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Aug. 17, 2012 @ 7:29 p.m.

It is doomed for the short term. If any country can come back it is America, but face it, there have been serious problems brewing for 30 years now, when Ronnie Raygun started running those twin deficits, trade and budget deficits.

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Don Bauder Aug. 18, 2012 @ 7:04 a.m.

It seems to me that "doomed" by definition connotes the long run, but it's not worth arguing the point. You are correct that Reagan's conversion to supply side economics, in combination with his escalation of defense spending, created massive deficits from which we have never recovered. Remember, too, that Cheney told George W. Bush that Reagan had proved that deficits don't matter. Arghhh! Therefore, the Bush era clowns went ahead with the tax cuts for the rich that sent the deficit spiraling again. Now Romney-Ryan want to tackle the deficit by cutting entitlements of the poor and middle class, while escalating tax cuts for the rich and not cutting defense spending. This is during a prolonged economic slump when spending by the middle class is the one thing that could bolster the economy. (Consumption is 71% of GDP.) This is utter insanity. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 18, 2012 @ 8:33 a.m.

Weuns has met the enemy--in the looking-glass, but it, or our perception, is badly warped.

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Don Bauder Aug. 18, 2012 @ 1:28 p.m.

A minority of citizens knows that we are our own enemy, but the vast majority of the population doesn't care. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Aug. 23, 2012 @ 5:11 p.m.

Yes, failure to act will certainly worsen the economy, perhaps plunge it into recession. (We're close to one now.) That's a major reason Jacobson and Poole believe Congress will be forced to smoke the peace pipe temporarily and do something. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 23, 2012 @ 9:29 p.m.

For some reason, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge comes to mind. Once oscillation goes critical, there's no stopping it. Start growing kale and beans, and learn to love rabbit.

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tomjohnston Aug. 23, 2012 @ 10:08 p.m.

potatoes are pretty easy to grow, too. and for a little variety, I'm sure there will be plenty of rock doves, too. if it's still there, Curly Jones in Norwalk used to have fried rabbit on the menu. we used to stop on the way back from SD at the one that was in Corona. mmmmm good. come to think of it, maybe we'll just head to Wyoming, it's just easier.

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Don Bauder Aug. 24, 2012 @ 7:52 a.m.

How about pheasant under glass? Best, Don Bauder

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tomjohnston Aug. 24, 2012 @ 10:49 a.m.

Pheasant is much too common place now days. There are the uninformed who still consider it to be exotic or a delicacy, but really it's not. It's one of the more commonly hunted birds in certain areas of the country. It is estimated that 1.5 million birds were bagged in the 2011 season in South Dakota alone. Pheasant has been widely hunted there for over 50 years. Back in the early 60's it was common for 2-3 million birds per season to be taken. Don't you just hate it when the proletariat begin to encroach upon the elitist upper crust? BTW, instead of morels, try using chantorels some time. I know, purists will say too fruity, but really, they work. Or you could really step it up and try using truffles. You don't have to go all French to enjoy them. There are some really good ones that come out of the pacific northwest. A couple of years ago, some friends of ours found some that came from a Xmas tree farm of all places. There are a couple of places in Portland that you can get them from quite reasonably priced.

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Don Bauder Aug. 25, 2012 @ 9:41 a.m.

The main thing I remember about eating pheasant was chewing slowly so I didn't swallow any buckshot. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Aug. 24, 2012 @ 7:49 a.m.

I hate rabbits. They are all over our acreage. But the one time I ate rabbit, I did like it. Best, Don Bauder

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tomjohnston Aug. 24, 2012 @ 11:06 a.m.

I've only had rabbit 2 ways, fried, like fried chicken, with a good country gravy and in a rabbit jambalaya. Fried rabbit is like fried chicken in that really you can only do just so much with it; it can be rather pedestrian. But rabbit jambalaya is very good. If you didn't know it was rabbit, you wouldn't be able tell what it was for sure, only that it was a little different and very tasty. Though I suppose if you don't like creole food, then you wouldn't like it.

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Don Bauder Aug. 24, 2012 @ 4:49 p.m.

I love Creole food. I would be delighted to add a rabbit. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 25, 2012 @ 9:43 p.m.

Fat-free protein. Git y' sum wild mustard greens or some chicory or poke or pigweed an' ground-cherry, or some goosefoot with some toasted sage seed and wild hog cracklins sprinkled on it, and you couldn't buy such an elegant repast in 21 for a grand a plate. Especially if the rabbit is wild, like Don's. Y' kin jes' twist 'em outen their holes w' a stick or some bob-wire and whack 'em sharply behind the ears, then unzip 'em in the middle, and pull off the skin like a pair o' socks. Adding some fruit like Oregon grape or its Intermountain relatives to the rabbit while it simmers in some Sirah will put it beyond the "chef" class. Juniper "berries" convey a less-fruity aroma to the dish, and you can add some ghee. Oregon (Colorado?) truffles or wild morels can be cooked in with the little rodent too, simmered until the meat falls off the bones . . .

Want my recipe for planked carp?

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Don Bauder Aug. 25, 2012 @ 10:02 p.m.

Sounds like something for Mike Huckabee, now that he is rich. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Aug. 25, 2012 @ 10:02 p.m.

Sounds like something for Mike Huckabee, now that he is rich. Best, Don Bauder

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tomjohnston Aug. 26, 2012 @ 11:06 a.m.

Never tried sirah, but I do like Syrah. I prefer trout or salmon and for the plank, I Iike to use a section of stave from an old oak wine barrel.

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Don Bauder Aug. 27, 2012 @ 3:08 p.m.

As a pejorative address to one of perceived lower rank, I prefer Sirrah. Best, Don Bauder

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tomjohnston Aug. 28, 2012 @ 12:28 p.m.

Well. first off, I wouldn't use such any archaic term, but then you're really old so maybe to you it's not so archaic. Secondly, I generally don't hurl pejoratives towards those of a "perceived lower rank" simply because of a "perceived lower rank". With me, regardless of "rank", one generally has to earn it first. But then again, I'm not a journalist so I rarely sit on high and cast aspersions on all manner of people, and on society in general.

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Twister Aug. 27, 2012 @ 1:10 p.m.

Re: dbauder Aug. 24, 2012 @ 7:52 a.m.

How about pheasant under glass? Best, Don Bauder

But now peasant under glass--THAT'S a meal for a one percenter, presented with, or followed by, baked Alaskan, soaked in hum drum rum.

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Don Bauder Aug. 27, 2012 @ 3:11 p.m.

I assume you are in the 1%, Twister. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 28, 2012 @ 5:24 p.m.

I reckon I should so aspire, yet as much as I perspire, I lack the perspicacity. And since I've never bought a lottery ticket, much less a lotta them, I can only dream of floating on the flotsam up to the jetsetstream of heavenly glory; I can only sink into the depths of mediumocracy, a mere speck on the neck of one of the one per cent.

Fatally, I trust.

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Don Bauder Aug. 28, 2012 @ 6:52 p.m.

Monetary success is not a matter of perspicacity; it's a matter of horse's assity. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 28, 2012 @ 5:33 p.m.

And I even used to drink Shiraz. And tequila with Jesus. Praise Jesus and pass the ammo-re.

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Don Bauder Aug. 28, 2012 @ 9:22 p.m.

You drank tequila with Jesus but still can't win the lottery? Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Aug. 30, 2012 @ 9:01 p.m.

Gamboling is a sin, and besides I don't like the odds. No lottery has ever gotten so much as a thin dime outta me.

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Don Bauder Aug. 28, 2012 @ 9:24 p.m.

What's a misteak amung freinds? Best, Don Bauder

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