Friday Talking Points -- Biden Helps 43 Million Americans

[ Posted Friday, August 26th, 2022 – 16:59 UTC ]

President Joe Biden keeps coming out with summer hit after summer hit. This week, he forgave up to $20,000 in student loan debt for 43 million Americans. That's a big win, even if some are desperately trying to convince parents across the country that it's somehow a bad thing that their son or daughter just had their student debt wiped out. Good luck with that, guys. Most Americans see this as a huge relief, even if they don't personally benefit. And most Americans see Republicans complaining about it as being seriously out of touch.

The media is going along for this ride, cheerfully pointing out the very few Democrats who spoke out against Biden's move, and repeating all of the Republican talking points about how it'll absolutely doom the economy to allow students to be free of debt earlier in life. But for once, not only Democrats but the White House itself is pushing back hard.

The Twitter account "The White House" smacked down several GOP politicians who were badmouthing the student loan forgiveness. The Republicans' refrain went something like: "Everyone should pay their debts and not take out loans if they can't repay them." Except for, you know, history. The White House took aim at Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who had complained: "For our government just to say ok your debt is completely forgiven... it's completely unfair." The White House responded: "Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene had $183,504 in PPP loans forgiven." She wasn't the only one to get this reminder, either. It seems it is just fine with Republicans when debts for business owners are forgiven in the middle of a pandemic, but they go apoplectic when the beneficiaries are students. That is an excellent pushback message, it is impossible to deny, and it strips bare the hypocrisy coming from Republicans who are all for government money flowing to the wealthy -- but who are horrified when the money goes to the not-wealthy.

Republicans are also somehow trying to tie the debt forgiveness to inflation, but this effort is falling flat as well. As Biden pointed out when he rolled it all out, there will only be one more extension of the payment moratorium on student loans (which has been in place for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency), so everyone is going to have to resume payments in January. This will offset the money forgiven for the student loans, meaning the impact on the economy as a whole will be balanced out and could even prove to be a little deflationary. So that GOP argument doesn't really hold water either.

The details of the debt forgiveness plan have mostly been brushed aside in this big argument, but they are worth paying attention to. Biden has been criticized for taking an inordinately long time to make this move, but they did come up with a rather interesting way to construct it. Everyone had been expecting the figure $10,000 -- which was only a small portion of what some progressives wanted. Way back in the 2020 Democratic primary campaign, Bernie Sanders was arguing for forgiving all student debt. Then the suggestion of $50,000 got a big push. Biden was always more incremental, and committed to the $10,000 figure. So that's what everyone expected.

The announcement that students who had received Pell grants (which are means-tested to help the lowest-income families afford college) would get $20,000 came as a complete surprise. But it is brilliant because it blunts the edge of those complaining that all this money is going to "rich kids." It isn't -- only people making $125,000 a year or less get their loans forgiven. And now those who came from families at the bottom end of the income scale will get double.

But there's one aspect that hasn't gotten enough attention, even though it should. All students paying back undergraduate loans will see their monthly payments capped at only five percent of their discretionary income -- down from 10 percent. This will be a gigantic and ongoing help to tens of millions of students who don't get their full debt wiped out. Ask someone fresh out of college what a difference that will make in their budget -- they'll tell you. And for many, they'll have their remaining loan forgiven after 10 years of making payments, which is down from the current 20 years. Ask a twentysomething what that extra decade will mean to them.

Joe Biden is helping 43 million Americans afford college. Republicans' only response is to try to get people to begrudge them this relief. To resent them for it. Which is why it is so helpful that the White House is pointing out the enormous sums of debt that were previously forgiven for all those business owners. Because what is the difference, really? Only who gets the relief. Did any of the Republicans weep and wail about "socialism" or predict inflation would doom us all when they had their hands in the federal till? They did not. So why are they so worked up about it now?

Joe Biden and the Democrats keep getting good things done, against all odds. Each time they do, they undermine the Republican political argument a bit further. Republicans are trying to convince voters that Joe Biden's presidency has been some modern-day hellscape, with nothing but bad everywhere you look. Meanwhile, in the real world, 20 million students just had their debt obligation wiped out, while more than 20 million more will see either $10,000 or $20,000 lopped off what they owe. That's a lot of voters, especially when you take into account their extended families. Infrastructure reform projects are starting to get going -- the infrastructure reform that Trump promised for four years and never delivered. A plan is in place to bring down the cost of prescription drugs. We're going to build semiconductor fabrication plants in America so we don't have to rely on foreign countries for crucial components of just about everything we buy. The first gun regulation law passed in a generation. Climate change is finally being addressed. Jobs continue to be plentiful and wages keep going up. Unemployment is at a 50-year low. COVID-19 has faded into the background as a new school year begins. Veterans exposed to toxic burn pits now have proper care. Inflation is starting to come down. And -- best of all -- gas prices have fallen over $1.20 from their peak at the start of the summer. After Labor Day, prices generally go down, so this trend is likely to continue at least in the short term.

Hellscape? Hardly. Maybe all of that is why Democratic hopes for the midterms have been rising. Or maybe it's all the lunatics the Republicans have nominated to run against them. Or perhaps there's one single issue which has turned the entire political landscape around.

Republicans, ever since the Supreme Court jettisoned Roe v. Wade have been like the dog who finally caught a car -- they don't know what to do with it. All of a sudden all their extreme positions are becoming reality for tens of millions of women, and that is outraging voters across the country. They are fired up, and they are motivated to get to the polls and register their disapproval.

We got evidence of this this week when Democrat Pat Ryan won a special House election in the Hudson Valley of New York state. He was widely expected to lose -- the district had only voted for Joe Biden by 1.5 points in 2020 and seemed a prime pickup for Republicans. But Ryan leaned in hard on the abortion issue. And the Republican didn't know what to do about it, plain and simple. Democratic turnout was way up, and Ryan unexpectedly won.

This has sent a shiver of fear down many Republicans' spines. We now have proof of the potency of the abortion issue to drive turnout among highly-motivated voters. And Republicans know their party's position is not popular at all. So they've been trying to ignore the issue in the hopes that it won't be that big a deal to voters. But now Democrats running for office across the country have learned that leaning in on abortion helps. So there will no doubt be a flood of post-Labor Day ads from Democrats reminding people that they are for women's freedoms while Republicans want to take them away nationwide. That's a winning argument. New voter registrations from women are outpacing men in state after state. There's a big reason for that, and Democrats are perfectly positioned to take advantage of it. No wonder Republicans are getting scared.

Republicans are also trapped in defending Donald Trump's increasingly blatant lawbreaking. They just can't move on from him. But doing so takes a lot of their energy, which has left the opposition to all of the Biden agenda policy wins rather anemic and weak. The pushback against the student loan forgiveness is probably going to follow the same path, too. Republicans desperately flail around for a few days trying to come up with some reasonable position opposing Biden, but then they fail, because Biden's doing things that are quite popular (like lowering prescription drug prices and fighting climate change). After a halfhearted week or two, Republicans then drop the issue, usually because they have to defend some new jaw-dropping revelation about Trump. Trump is sapping their energy.

Case in point, today the affidavit was partially released (heavily-redacted, in other words) that justified the search warrant served on Trump's golf club in Florida. It was just as damning as all the other revelations about this search. Earlier, we learned, a whopping 184 classified documents were turned over to the National Archives -- none of which Trump should ever have had. When you add them all up, Trump kept over 300 such classified documents -- over 700 pages total -- in a basement room at a golf club with no security at all. Some of these documents contained "national defense information" and some were classified at the highest, most-restrictive levels.

The basic story has not changed, though. Donald Trump took dozens of boxes of paperwork with him when he left the White House. He had absolutely no valid reason to keep any of these documents. None of these documents were his property. They all belong to the American people. They are presidential records and there are laws about what is supposed to happen to them. Trump ignored these laws, and broke these laws. When he was asked politely to give the documents back, he balked. He finally did allow 15 boxes to be returned (which contained 184 classified documents), but he hung on to a bunch more of them. They were subpoenaed, but Trump still didn't turn them all over. His lawyer signed a promise that all the proper documents had already been turned over -- which was a lie. Finally the F.B.I. got tired of Trump's lies and stalling and got a search warrant from a federal judge. Dozens more boxes were seized, with more top secret documents.

This is all illegal. There is no legal argument that any of it was somehow covered by "executive privilege." They are the property of the American people, period. Trump stole them. The F.B.I. recovered them -- after Trump refused to turn them over, lied about them, and ignored a subpoena. That's it in a nutshell. It's actually pretty simple. And no matter what Trump says, it does not matter whether the documents were declassified or not. Because classified or declassified, they are still the property of the American people -- not Donald Trump. Trump has never quite grasped this basic fact, despite being told numerous times, and now he has filed a laughable lawsuit which might be summed up as: "Gimme my stuff back! It's mine!" This lawsuit is expected to fail, spectacularly.

The release of the affidavit seems to be the end of this segment of the story, at any rate. The documents were recovered, Trump is throwing a tantrum, but we'll all have to wait and see what the next chapter will bring. Trump is likely to keep bringing it up, but each time he does he just reminds everyone that he has been spitting in the face of the law since he left office. Republicans will be reduced to somehow trying to explain why Donald Trump can break any law he wishes, and somehow that's supposed to be a good thing. Again: good luck with that, guys.

It is shocking to realize it, but Democrats are now the party of law and order, and Republicans are openly threatening federal agents. They created a lie that the Inflation Reduction Act somehow meant 87,000 new armed I.R.S. agents that will soon be breaking down doors and shooting average Americans (none of which is true), and now the I.R.S. is having to review security at all its offices around the country -- because of the increasing threat of right-wing attacks. This follows Republicans demonizing (and calling for the defunding of) the F.B.I. A Republican candidate for the Florida legislature just went whole hog and called for people to "shoot FBI, IRS, ATF and all other feds on sight."

This is today's Republican Party, folks. This is why "threats to democracy" just topped one poll of voters' biggest concerns right now. Joe Biden just gave a speech in which he called the "extreme MAGA philosophy" nothing short of "semi-fascism." Even that was polite, there's not much "semi-" about it, really.

We'll leave you with one excerpt of this speech, because this message really needs to get out more:

The MAGA Republicans don't just threaten our personal rights and economic security. They're a threat to our very democracy. They refuse to accept the will of the people. They embrace -- embrace -- political violence. They don't believe in democracy.

This is why in this moment, those of you who love this country -- Democrats, independents, mainstream Republicans -- we must be stronger.


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

We've got a lot of contenders for the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week, so let's dive in.

First we've got two Honorable Mention awards, both for candidates who won in Tuesday's round of elections.

The first is Maxwell Frost, who is quite likely to become the first of "Generation Z" to hold office in Congress. He is 25 years old -- just barely old enough to serve in the House -- and he beat out two former members of Congress (Corrine Brown and Alan Grayson) to win the Democratic nomination in Florida's 10th district. It's a solid blue district, so this win will almost certainly propel him to the House of Representatives -- the first of his generation to make it there.

He'll probably even join the ranks of The Squad, if his platform is any indication:

[Maxwell] Frost campaigned on support for Medicare-for-all, demilitarizing the police, legalizing "sex work" and recreational marijuana, expunging all marijuana convictions, and restoring voting rights to the incarcerated.

He got into politics at age 15, working against gun violence. He became the national organizing director of March For Our Lives, the group formed by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after their massacre. He has also worked for the A.C.L.U. in Florida. David Hogg, the co-founder of March For Our Lives, summed up the power behind Frost: "Never underestimate the power of pissed-off young people."

The next Honorable Mention recipient is Pat Ryan, who pulled off the surprise victory in New York. He has shown all other Democrats the power and potency of the abortion issue in a big way. He made it central to his campaign while his Republican opponent didn't want to talk about it. That was enough. Plenty of other Democratic candidates will be following the path he just proved can work, which might just be enough to fend off that predicted "red wave" in November.

But we have two winners this week for the MIDOTW award, one well-known and one anonymous. The well-known one is President Biden who, with the stroke of a pen, wiped out the student debts of 20 million people, and helped over 20 million more by reducing their debt significantly.

Biden campaigned on this issue rather reluctantly (it was one of the issues that Bernie Sanders pushed hard on, so Biden had to stake out some sort of position on it), and it has been over a year and a half since Biden took office. So this wasn't exactly one of those "We'll get this done on Day One!" sorts of things for him, obviously.

But even if it took him a while, and even if he might have been reluctant, Biden not only followed through on his promise in the end, he actually doubled the amount for Pell grant recipients. That is impressive.

Critics claim he is "buying votes." Well, so what? Politicians do that sort of thing all the time. We'll just have to see whether it works or not to judge how effective Biden will be at it. Youth turnout can change an entire election, since normally young voters just don't show up to midterm elections. When they do, they can provide the margin of victory in all sorts of unexpected places -- as they did in 2018. Having that much debt forgiven -- personally by Joe Biden -- would certainly motivate us to vote if we still had student loans. But we'll have to wait and see how it all turns out.

But to us, the really impressive winner this week was whoever is in charge of "The White House" Twitter feed. They headed the Republican hypocrisy off at the pass, in spectacular fashion. By pointing out several Republicans in Congress who were now badmouthing the concept of loan forgiveness as gigantic hypocrites for having their own personal businesses' loans forgiven completely during the pandemic, The White House Twitter feed accomplished something we don't believe has happened until now: a Biden White House tweet made some news.

OK, sure, Biden was elected to be the opposite of Trump -- calm instead of chaos, in other words. But you can take that sort of thing too far, and so far Joe Biden hasn't utilized social media in any noticeable way throughout his entire term in office. What other Biden tweet can you remember? We can't think of any....

So to whatever lowly worker in the White House communications office came up with the brilliant idea of just hitting the Republicans back where they live -- and doing so right away -- we have to say, we were incredibly impressed. The midterm campaign is underway. Biden's legacy is on the line. He's the leader of the Democratic Party, and as leader he should be showing everyone else how to counter GOP nonsense.

The White House Twitter feed did precisely that, this week. The guy or gal who came up with the idea truly deserves a raise, if not a promotion. This is how to fight back, folks! Let's hope we see a lot more of these snarky tweets emanating from Biden's White House in the very near future.

[Congratulate President Joe Biden (and by extension, the author of those tweets) on his White House contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

Paul Pelosi was sentenced for his drunk driving this week, but we don't count him as a public figure, so we consider him ineligible for any awards.

Instead, our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week is California Governor Gavin Newsom.

This week, Newsom vetoed a bill that would have allowed a few California cities to open supervised drug-injection sites, where addicts could safely inject illegal drugs. This was passed to try to alleviate the rising incidence of fatal overdoses. It would save lives, in other words.

Newsom professed to be supportive of the concept, but had worries that the law wasn't written well enough and needed "strong, engaged local leadership and well-documented, vetted, and thoughtful operational and sustainability plans." He told his head of health and human services to work with the cities to try to come up with such plans.

The bill doesn't have enough votes to overcome Newsom's veto, so the pilot project it approved is going to have to wait. But we have to agree that there were other calculations to Newsom's decision:

Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, has built a national profile as an outspoken defender of popular progressive causes like abortion rights and gun control. But political observers speculated that he would be hesitant to sign the injection-site bill, which might have yielded potent fodder for his conservative critics if it had become law.

"He likes to be ahead of the curve," Jessica Levinson, a political analyst who teaches at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said of Mr. Newsom recently. "But if he signs this, the ads kind of write themselves: He becomes 'Governor Heroin.'"

This unexpected timidity runs counter to his political persona -- that of a guy who does get out in front of contentious issues (like marijuana legalization and gay marriage, both of which he championed very early on). So it was indeed disappointing to see Newsom veto a project that he personally seems to support -- for what seem like entirely political reasons. Maybe he was right to, maybe it will help boost him if he does run for president one day (which he is itching to). But for now, Gavin Newsom is our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

[Contact California Governor Gavin Newsom on his official contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 674 (8/26/22)

Kind of a mixed and disjointed bag this week, we fully admit.

We even have a bonus talking point for you -- one we considered just a wee bit too snarky for Democratic politicians to actually use, but one that we found hilarious nonetheless. We can't claim credit for it, we saw it somewhere on Twitter or other social media, so we are unable to provide the credit it is due. But it is the funniest takedown of all the high-and-mighty Republicans trying to stoke resentment against all the students who will have loans forgiven:

Jesus's miracle of the loaves and fishes was a slap in the face to all the people who brought their own lunch.

As we said, the danger in actually using it for a politician is that you're equating Joe Biden with Jesus, which we find a bridge too far (to say the least), but we did have to share it just because it was so funny.

Amusements aside, though, let's get on with this week's talking points.


   Biden's reasoning

Let's start with President Biden's own words, from his student loan announcement, because Biden sums up exactly what he's trying to accomplish rather well:

An entire generation is now saddled with unsustainable debt in exchange for an attempt, at least, at a college degree. The burden is so heavy, even if you graduate, you may not have access to the middle-class life that the college degree once provided. Many people can't qualify for a mortgage to buy a home because of the debt they continue to carry.

People can start to finally crawl out from under that mountain of debt to get on top of their rent and their utilities. To finally think about buying a home or starting a family or starting a business.


   No apology

Biden was asked about Republican resistance to his plan, and he didn't point out all the PPP loans Republican politicians had had forgiven, he took a different tack that was just as effective. He made it a question of the priorities of the two parties.

I will never apologize for helping Americans -- working Americans, middle class -- especially not to the same folks who voted for a $2 trillion tax cut that mainly benefited the wealthiest Americans and the biggest corporations.


   All the time

One Washington Post column summed up the counterargument brilliantly. Because this truly is no different than the federal government spending other money in the past (emphasis in original).

The government, furthermore, bails out people, companies and industries all the time when it decides that doing so is worthwhile. In the Great Recession we bailed out banks, insurers and auto companies. Donald Trump handed out tens of billions of dollars to farmers hit by his pointless trade war. Pandemic relief distributed hundreds of billions of dollars in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans to businesses.

Some of those forgiven loans -- remember, taxpayer money, from truck drivers and waitresses -- even went to the same Republican members of Congress who now rail against forgiving student debt, as the White House eagerly pointed out. If you're a struggling blue-collar worker, are you mad that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) had $183,000 in loans forgiven, or that Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) had $1.4 million forgiven, or that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) had $482,000 forgiven?

If not, why does student loan forgiveness make you mad?


   We need Democrats to be in charge

A state senator in Colorado, Kevin Priola, made some news this week by switching his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat. He released a letter explaining why he was making this big change, and it was an absolute condemnation of today's Republican Party:

I recognize that we are in the midst of an election that will determine which party controls the [Colorado state] Senate Chamber. Even if there will continue to be issues that I disagree with the Democratic Party on, there is too much at stake right now for Republicans to be in charge. Coloradans cannot afford for their leaders to give credence to election conspiracies and climate denialism. Simply put, we need Democrats in charge because our planet and our democracy depend on it.

. . .

To my dismay, brave and honorable Republicans like Mike Pence, Liz Cheney, Mitt Romney, and Adam Kinzinger have fought to defend the Constitution and rule of law only to be met with ridicule and threats. Fear-mongering to raise money or motivate voters is nothing new, but it has been taken to a dangerous and destabilizing level.

I cannot continue to be a part of a political party that is okay with a violent attempt to overturn a free and fair election and continues to peddle claims that the 2020 election was stolen.


   Who will speak for the trees? Well, maybe not Herschel....

Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker just keeps on saying bizarre things. Here he is trying to respond to the Inflation Reduction Act, proving once again he should never be sent to Washington by the voters of Georgia:

They try to fool you and make you think they are helping you out -- they're not. You know that some of this money is going into trees? We got enough trees -- don't we have enough trees around here?


   More voter fraud!

Hoo boy.

"The Republican nominee for state attorney general in Arizona -- the top legal office in the state -- seems to have admitted online that he committed voter fraud years ago. He's running now on the same whackadoodle 'rigged 2020 election' claims as Donald Trump, but it seems he himself knows a thing or two about voter fraud. When he was a teenager and not old enough to vote himself, he bragged online about changing his mother's absentee ballot to vote for a different candidate. Which is completely illegal. And now he wants to be the top lawyer in the state? It seems once again that if Republicans truly wanted to find voter fraud, all they'd have to do is look in the mirror."


   Speaking of deadbeats...

This (obviously) plays into the whole student loan debate, in a big way.

"So Republicans are now telling everyone sanctimoniously that 'debts should be paid' and not forgiven. I wonder what Donald Trump has to say on that subject -- you know, the guy who serially declared bankruptcy to weasel out of all of his debts? Why is it peachy-fine for Trump to wipe out his debts using the courts but somehow some giant moral failing if Joe Biden forgives student loans for tens of millions of Americans? Trump has never paid his way in life -- ever. Ask anyone who has contracted for him, or done legal work for him, they'll tell you. In fact, right this very minute the company that hosts Trump's egocentric 'Truth Social' site is trying to get Trump to pay what he owes for the webhosting services. It seems Trump made a few monthly payments, but hasn't paid a dime since March. March! If I were in charge of that company, I'd dump Trump as fast as possible, because you just know they're never going to get the money they're owed. 'Debts should be paid'? Are you serious? You really want to try walking that high moral road when the leader of your party is the world's biggest deadbeat?"

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground


5 Comments on “Friday Talking Points -- Biden Helps 43 Million Americans”

  1. [1] 
    andygaus wrote:

    There are actually two reasons why it doesn't matter whether the documents Trump held on to were classified or not. One of them you mentioned: declassifying the documents doesn't mean that Trump owns them. The other reason is that if the documents were classified because they contained dangerous secrets, those secrets were still just as dangerous after declassification. And in fact, Trumps's legal liability is based on the dangerousness of the mishandled information, not its classification.

  2. [2] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    As well as this particular case of pointing out R candidates' own loan forgiveness, when any candidate decries money for 'ordinary' people, attacking ads should point out that candidate's known wealth, especially any derived from taxpayer money. So--

    Mr/s Rep is against raising minimum pay to $15/hr.

    S/he gets $150/hr as well as a Congressional salary of $87/hr*.

    The family business benefited by $250,000 in taxpayer money last year.

    (*Assuming a 40 hr week over 50 weeks, which is probably generous to the congressperson and could be tweaked to fit reality.)

  3. [3] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    S/he gets $150/hr as well as a Congressional salary of $87/hr*.

    The family business benefited by $250,000 in taxpayer money last year.

    (*Assuming a 40 hr week over 50 weeks, which is probably generous to the congressperson and could be tweaked to fit reality.)

    The average Congressional freshman spends 60% of their work-week raising funds for their party. 60%! That is 3 full days out of a 5 day work week that they are seeking money from potential donors. That leaves them only 2 days to focus on the actual job that they were elected to do. These officials aren't employees of their political parties, they are OUR employees!

    Could you imagine the response if at your place of employment you decided not to do your job and instead you attempted to raise donations for the union you belonged to or for your kid's baseball teams' fundraising event? You would be looking for new employment very quickly!

    When a person spends that much time seeking money from individuals and groups, it should not shock anyone that our politicians can be easily influenced by those willing to help them reach their fundraising goals quicker.

  4. [4] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    As we said, the danger in actually using it for a politician is that you're equating Joe Biden with Jesus, which we find a bridge too far (to say the least), but we did have to share it just because it was so funny.

    No, you are not equating Joe Biden with Jesus. You would be comparing the reactions of people to acts of generosity to others that doesn't directly benefit the person reacting. You'd be showing the greediness of others to witnessing acts of generosity to people other than themselves.

    Anyone claiming you were equating Biden with Jesus cannot comprehend what they read and should be made to feel foolish for such ignorant claims.

  5. [5] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:


    I know, assuming 40 hrs, 50 wks is too generous, which means the 'hourly' salary is much higher. But I think the principle still works.

    Ideally those long legislative breaks are spent back in the constituency, dealing with local issues and listening to constituents. If that was ever true, it isn't now, of course.

    A previous commenter here was right that big money is the curse of present-day American politics, even though he was so wrong about changing the situation.

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