Economics, Pethokoukis

In 2002, CBO predicted 2012 US debt would be 7.4% of GDP. In reality, it was almost 74% of GDP

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Making economic and budget predictions is hard, especially when wars, recessions, and financial crises pop up unexpectedly. Here’s the Congressional Budget Office’s ten-year budget forecast from 2002 (note that this was after the Bush tax cuts were passed):

And here’s what actually happened:

Instead of publicly-held debt as a share of GDP being a microscopic 7.4% this year, it was closer to 74% – or 72.8% to be specific (as of the August update from the CBO.)

In 2007 — the Great Recession is officially dated as starting in December of that year — the debt-GDP ratio was 37%. So a doubling of debt due to the Great Slump — the recession and its slow-growth aftermath.

83 thoughts on “In 2002, CBO predicted 2012 US debt would be 7.4% of GDP. In reality, it was almost 74% of GDP

  1. ” So a doubling of debt due to the Great Slump — the recession and its slow-growth aftermath.”

    ha ha ha!

    how about they voted to double the budget spending ?

    I mean every single GOP worth his/her salt say that we have a “spending” problem – and this would be folks like Paul Ryan who actually voted for the spending… like Medicare Part D…

    So the GOPers vote to increase spending because they were so confident that their supply-side unicorn beliefs were correct and cutting taxes would not only increase revenues but increase them enough to pay for two wars, doubling the DOD budget, and Medicare Parts c and D …. and then the economy tanks….

    and… now… that deficit (created in the Bush years) is still there and still adding a trillion a year to the debt.

    but it’s the economy’s fault and it’s Obama’s fault because he would not cut what the GOP increased (like Medicare Part D and DOD) ….

    the GOP lives in a make-believe world these days.

    they screwed the economic pooch with their drunken sailor spending and NOW they blame it on the economy and Obama … and refuse to make cuts when they could and instead voted to CONTINUE govt spending at the previous levels by approving Continuing Resolutions.

  2. Which proves the folly of relying on these projections as you have so mendaciously done in prior posts, when it suited your prejudices.

    Organizations MUST project- you have to have a plan to benchmark progress and set goals. But to think you’re going to magically wind up where you thought you would 10 years from now, is mad. It would be blind luck.

  3. We had a poor performing economy throughout the Bush years — never got to full utilitization of our productive resources, never got to full reinvestment into our productive infrastructure, never got close to full employment — even after massive tax cuts.

    REMEMBER THE GOOD OLE DAYS?
    Apparently Republicans and Conservatives Don’t
    So let’s go down some FACTS!
    Fed Govt Revenues Budget +Surplus/-Deficit President who
    Submitted FY budget

    FY1999 $1.8 Trillion + $125 Billion Clinton
    FY2000 $2.0 Trillion + $236 Billion Clinton
    FY2001 $1.991 Trillion + $128 Billion Clinton
    FY2002 $1.85 Trillion - $158 Billion Bush
    FY2003 $1.78 Trillion - $377 Billion Bush
    FY2004 $1.88 Trillion - $412 Billion Bush
    FY2005 $2.15 Trillion - $318 Billion Bush
    FY2006 $2.4 Trillion - $248 Billion Bush
    FY2007 $2.568 Trillion(the best year) - $161 Billion Bush
    FY2008 $2.52 Trillion(recession starts) -$458 Billion Bush
    FY2009 $2.1 Trillion(back in the tank) -$1.4 Trillion Bush**
    FY2010 $2.1 Trillion -$1.3 Trillion Obama
    FY2011 $2.3 Trillion -$1.3 Trillion Obama
    FY2012 $2.4 Trillion (est.) -$1.3 Trillion Obama
    NOTE: FY budgets are submitted in February for the fiscal year starting on October 1st following that February – so, in February 2013, President Obama will submit the FY Budget for 2014 (October 1, 2013 to September 30, 2014).
    ** Bush was in office from October 1, 2008 until January 20, 2009 – and submitted a budget deficit of over $1 Trillion the preceding February (2008). The day Obama walked into the White House on January 20th, the deficit was $1.1 Trillion.
    Source for information: Office of Management and Budget per Government Printing Office:
    http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BUDGET-2013-TAB/pdf/BUDGET-2013-TAB.pdf
    Total U.S. Federal Government Debt — $16 Trillion (approx).
    Total U.S. Wealth – over $55 Trillion (was over $60 Trillion prior to Financial Crisis of 2008)
    Federal Government Debt to GDP (as %)
    During WWII – was near 120%
    Currently – just over 100%
    Historically since WWII – 40 to 60% of GDP
    Does the Federal Government have to have balanced budgets for prosperity?
    Under Truman – in eight years he had four balanced budgets — Debt to GDP went from over 100% to approximately 75% when he left.
    Under Eisenhower – in eight years Ike had three balanced budgets — Debt to GDP went from over 70% to approximately 55% when he left.
    During the spend-thrift 60’s (up to FY1969) (the Vietnam War, Great Society Programs, etc., etc.) where we had eight years of Democrats and the only balanced budget was the one submitted by LBJ in FY1969 — Debt to GDP went from over 55% to approximately less than 40% when the Liberal Democrats finally got kicked out. (WAS THAT A TYPO? NO IT WASN’T!)
    During the inflationary ‘70’s (when we had to pay for oil, Great Society Welfare Programs, etc., etc.) — Debt to GDP stayed under 40%.
    Debt to GDP climbed under Reagan and continued to climb until FY1996, and thereafter declined until the Bush years of FY2002 – but remained at a healthy % below 60%. When Bush left office it had climbed to 85%.
    Summation of the Clinton Years with Bush 43 Years:
    1. Clinton assumed office when we had a mild recession. Unemployment was around 7.5%. When he left office the unemployment rate was around 4.0% in a mild recession – we were near full-employment (considered somewhere around 3.25 to 3.5%) and were just under 4% (I think it was 3.8% the year before the recession). The GDP grew at annual rates of over 3.5% once out of the recession from 1992, and achieved growth rates of over 4% (even 4.8% in the best year) – these are real GDP growth rates, in other words minus the inflation rate.
    2. Bush assumed office when we had a mild recession. He had a massive tax cut followed by another one in 2003, supposedly to stimulate the economy. The real GDP growth rates during his eight years never got to 4%, the best year was 3.5. He only had one other year over 3%. The unemployment rate during Bush’s years was generally over 5% — he had three years (2001, 2006, 2007) when it was around 4.6%; all the other years was around 6% until his last year. In other words, he never got anywhere near full employment.

    OVERALL POINTS TO BE MADE: (1) IF YOU WANT A SOCIAL WELFARE PROGRAM, YOU NEED TO HAVE A STRONG ECONOMY TO SUPPORT IT; AND, (2) FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SPENDING IN THE RANGE OF 17 TO 20% OF GDP IS NOT A DRAG ON OUR ECONOMY (WHEN WE HAVE A STONG ECONOMY)

    The big problem with the U.S. economy is not the national debt or the annual deficits, or even the trade deficit. The problem with our economy is that it has deteriorated into under-performance and we have an Administration (along with an opposition Party) that does not know how to revive our economy. We have excess capacity that is not being utilized (approximately 30% of our productive capacity) and very high unemployment (8% or more likely 15%). We need to grow our economy and get growth rates up to 4% (annual increases over $600 billion). We need to revive our manufacturing sector — get it up to 25% of GDP — and export more — that will reduce our trade imbalance. With the manufacturing sector at only 10% of GDP the exports are not making a BIG impact. In addition we need to reinvest in our infrastructure to revive our manufacturing base and overall economy. In corporate America alone, there is over $2 Trillion in cash that corporations are sitting on because of the uncertainty in our economy. The Federal Reserve has over $1.4 Trillion for reinvestment in the economy that is just sitting there. Grow the economy and our debt/deficits will take care of themselves.
    Social Security is not a problem. It is one of the rare programs that is in surplus right now. Social Security has not contributed to our national debt yet – it will not until the 2030’s. The future costs of Social Security will go up by only 20% to handle the retiring, long-lived baby boomers. After that the population bulge will diminish and costs per participant will decrease. The 20% additional funding can easily be accommodated. We do not need to hear dire predictions from those who never supported Social Security in the first place and have been trying to undo it ever since. Welfare costs get attacked, but if we were near full employment, our welfare payments would be less. The only program with out of control costs is healthcare. That needs fixing to control costs, not just for the costs to government, but also the private sector costs – it is 17% of GDP. Germany, “socialized healthcare”, has costs at around 11% of GDP and the U.S. is considered to have poorer healthcare outcomes than Germany.

    NEXT QUESTION:
    Are balanced budgets sacrosanct? If you look at the above, for Truman, Eisenhower, the 60’s, etc. – the answer should be obvious – NO!
    We run a trade imbalance – that sucks money out of our economy (right now about $450 to $550 Billion a year). Our GDP growth is only around $350 Billion a year (approximately 2.1%). If we had a balanced budget we would lose at least $100 Billion in our overall economy – in other words, it would contract, not expand. Government deficits (of a couple hundred billion) help the economy to expand; but, it has to be spent in the right places. Today (and for the past several years) it has not and so we have slow growth.
    Balanced budgets are needed when the economy is at full employment and utilizing the full productive capacity of the country. If we ran deficits at a time like that it would be too much money chasing the same amount of goods and services and we would have inflation. When we had a mild recession in 2001, the GDP growth we had probably equaled the deficit in the balance of payments that we had that year; and, with the Government surplus in the budget, that was probably enough to contract the economy (when we were perceived to be at or near full employment) and put us in a mild recession.
    By the way, Paul Ryan’s budget plan (A Path to Prosperity: A Blueprint for American Renewal) (http://budget.house.gov/uploadedfiles/pathtoprosperity2013.pdf) does not get us to a balanced budget until after 2035.
    And should we look at the Federal Government budget as our own household budget?
    If your household could print your own money, you could spend endlessly. Especially if you had been doing this for two hundred years and you never missed a payment and no one ever questioned your ability to pay. That’s the difference between you and me and our Federal (not our State and Local) Government. We cannot print our own money, or add to the supply of money in the system (through the Federal Reserve Bank dealing with our Treasury Department) like our Federal Government can.
    Our Government, like most countries, has control of its own currency. Greece does not have control of its currency – it is under the Euro. So Greece has a problem. We are not Greece. Even in the past, when Greece did have its own currency, it was irresponsible and has defaulted on its debt several times in the past century – I think it last did this in the 1970’s. Italy has a problem under the Euro; but, when Italy had its own currency, the Lira, it sustained debt to GDP ratios well in excess of 100% year after year. Italy has always kept a highly leveraged economy – it did very well in good years, and very poorly in bad years. The value of the lira was 600L to a dollar in the late 1960’s and was around 1700L to a dollar by the 1990’s. The U.S. dollar on the other hand, has been quite stable. We did let it devalue during the 1970’s, and paid our oil debt to the Arabs that way, and suffered from high inflation as a result – even though we had very high real GDP growth rates in the 1970’s.
    Another advantage the U.S. government has is that the dollar is a reserve currency around the world. Other countries use it, even if they do not deal with us – e.g., oil is priced in dollars regardless of whether China is buying from Iran or whatever. Another advantage we have, is that our indebtedness to other countries (I think it is less than $6 Trillion of the $16 Trillion we owe) is denominated in dollars, not a foreign currency. When Argentina had debt problems and hyper-inflation its debt was held in foreign currencies – U.S. dollars, German DMs, etc. We do not have that problem. Another advantage we have is that we still attract foreign investment here on our shores rather than foreign governments investing in their own countries – Germany and China, just to name a few. As bad as our economy is doing right now, it is still better than elsewhere.
    So, when you hear some simpleton making a comparison of the U.S. economy to you running your household, you better ask yourself just what this person knows and what is he up to. Are we scoring political points or making sense?
    Let’s fix our economy. That will take care of a lot of the problems we currently have. And if all who work in the economy, regardless of their station, could share in the productivity of the economy (and I did not say equal share) we would all be better off. And if the tax code were fairer that would be a big help also. Everybody (even the poor) should have to pay taxes – their contribution – to support our society, especially if we want a social safety net.

    • Nice rant but its filled with a lot of BS. The best one is “Social Security is in a surplus.” Guess you don’t know that for the past 3 years, Social Security is paying out more than it takes in???

      • Guess you don’t know that the Old Age and Survivors Trust Fund has been using its surplus to buy Treasury securities since the Greenspan Commission reform in 1984, amounting to some $2.7 trillion at yearend 2011. http://www.ssa.gov/oact/STATS/table4a3.html

        That makes the middle class the largest domestic holder of the U.S. debt, with perhaps three times as much skin in the game than individual investors. The Bush tax cuts will go down in history as a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to the rich, and it won’t be pretty once Joe Sixpack figures it out.

        • todd claims: “That makes the middle class the largest domestic holder of the U.S. debt, with perhaps three times as much skin in the game than individual investors“…

          So the Obama administration has been ripping off the middle class by using the tax dollars extorted from them to buy what is essentially worthless paper…

          Good one todd

          • Obama was in college in California when FICA was raised to current levels to build a surplus for Boomer 27 years in the future. Bush had a choice of what to do with Clinton’s “surplus” (one year; $40 billion.) My choice would have been individual accounts for young workers. My second choice would have been a “lockbox” that would guarantee repayment of the OASI surplus. Bush cut taxes instead, lowering revenues by $1.6 trillion. Then he started two wars on a credit card and added Part D to Medicare, the most costly part of which is its ban on direct negotiations between Medicare and drug companies.
            The public understands that Dubya screwed up, but they don’t know how badly. Yet.

          • Obama was in college in California when FICA was raised to current levels to build a surplus for Boomer 27 years in the future“…

            What’s your point? That throwing good money after bad is the thing to do?

            Bush had a choice of what to do with Clinton’s “surplus” (one year; $40 billion.)“…

            Great! Now you believe in fairy tales

            Bush cut taxes instead, lowering revenues by $1.6 trillion“…

            So now you’re doubling down on the fairy tale nonsense

            More inane ande factless drivel: “Then he started two wars on a credit card and added Part D to Medicare, the most costly part of which is its ban on direct negotiations between Medicare and drug companies“…

            Pull your head out and try for a dose of reality instead…

            Face it, you and your fellow travelers supporting the Kenyan Kommie Klown are the reason we’re wallowing in this ever deepening fiscal mud hole…

        • Todd, reading those charts at ssa.gov, it appears that the SS trust fund will actually have paid out more in benefits than it has collected in FICA taxes some time next year. That would mean the entire trust fund is now made up of accumulated interest and stimulus monies. Further, looking at the rate of return the trust fund is currently claiming (and has claimed for at least the last 10 years), seems preposterous, in excess of 7% per annum. The trustees report claims they are doing this with both short and long term securities. In essence, we’re just moving debt around, making the SS trust fund look good while the national debt looks horrible.

          “That makes the middle class the largest domestic holder of the U.S. debt,..”

          Actually, that makes the ever decreasing number of us who pay still pay federal income taxes, holders of that debt, since that is the only way that debt will be made whole.

          • Wrong and wrong. Interest income on the securities carries OASI through 2020. The trustee report summarizes: “After 2020, Treasury will redeem trust fund assets in amounts that exceed interest earnings until exhaustion of trust fund reserves in 2033, three years earlier than projected last year. Thereafter, tax income would be sufficient to pay only about three-quarters of scheduled benefits through 2086.”

            SS cannot by law pay out more than it collects so this part of “entitlement grift” is pure fiction. What has changed is cash flow. SS began paying out more in benefits than it collected in FICA in 2010. That means not only that the FICA surplus no longer reduces the deficit — the budget doesn’t account money owed to SSA — but also that general tax revenues must make up difference from here on out.

            Three points: SS was no winner for me at an estimated 1.1 percent real return, assuming normal mortalities for my wife and I. http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/NOTES/ran5/index.html I am not complaining. Young workers are being hosed.

            Secondly, to hold a debt means we gave the money to the general fund. To owe the debt means that taxpayers are obligated to repay it. It is not the same thing. Make no mistake, the chained CPI business in the cliff talks is the general fund reneging.

            Finally, don’t call me a taker. Seems to me it’s the other way around.

            ;

    • (Misplaced post below.) Excellent summation, but AEI’s fingerprints are all over Dubya’s mismanagement so obfuscation is the order of the day.

    • comparing billions to trillions furthers your point how??
      FY2002 $1.85 Trillion – $158 Billion Bush
      FY2003 $1.78 Trillion – $377 Billion Bush
      FY2004 $1.88 Trillion – $412 Billion Bush
      FY2005 $2.15 Trillion – $318 Billion Bush
      FY2006 $2.4 Trillion – $248 Billion Bush
      FY2007 $2.568 Trillion(the best year) - $161 Billion Bush
      FY2008 $2.52 Trillion(recession starts) -$458 Billion Bush
      FY2009 $2.1 Trillion(back in the tank) -$1.4 Trillion Bush**
      FY2010 $2.1 Trillion -$1.3 Trillion Obama
      FY2011 $2.3 Trillion -$1.3 Trillion Obama
      FY2012 $2.4 Trillion (est.) -$1.3 Trillion Obama

        • first number is tax revenues. second is deficit. The asterisks on 09 note that the budget was approved on bush’s watch, as was TARP, fannie/freddie bailout and more fallout from the recession, which was also on bush’s watch.

      • Todd. You are an idiot or a liar. Which is it? Guessing you know full well that all spending legislation starts in the congress. In theory: House and senate both make and pass separate budgets which then get their differences hammer out in conference. The negotiated bill goes back to house n senate and get revoted upon. If both approve then the law goes to president to sign or veto. So really, how does one assign credit or blame to a specific president? Additionally, the budget changes may take years to take effect on the economy, and there are a multiplicity of factors outside the control of government that can help or hurt the economy ie natural disasters or fracking leading to huge increase in oil and natural gas production. Incredible stupid and shortsighted commentary you have attempted to portray, makes me suspect a troll….unfortunately I will be working back to back to back to back shifts, so trollboy you may argue with yourself in response and frame your lies for the others

      • Forgot you don’t know what century it is. Cult leader Jim Jones convinced his followers in 1978 to commit mass suicide by drinking poisoned Koolaid, a not-bad analogy for AEI.

        • Forgot you don’t know what century it is. Cult leader Jim Jones convinced his followers in 1978 to commit mass suicide by drinking poisoned Koolaid, a not-bad analogy for AEI“….

          You know initially todd I thought you were merely naive and a victim of what passes for a public school education…

          Now I’m beginning to wonder if you’re suffering from some sort of congenital condition…

          • Poor little, picked on todd whines: “You got me: an extreme alllergic reaction to Dumb Idiotic Tea-party Zeroes, or DITZs“…

            I’m sure that makes sense to one of your fellow libtards but now see if you can translate for real world consumption…

          • todd whines again: “I am sure your KKK moniker goes over better with fellow racists“…

            Now todd are you under the bizzare impression that like apparently you and the Kenyan Kommie Klown that I’m a member of the racist Democratic party?

          • No damn editing setting for this crappy WordPress…

            todd whines: “I am sure your KKK moniker goes over better with fellow racists“…

            Now todd are you under the bizzare impression that like apparently you and the Kenyan Kommie Klown that I’m a member of the racist Democratic party?

            Ahhh, that’s better…

          • Actually, I am under the impression that tone deaf Rs like you are the Ds’ best friend.

          • Actually, I am under the impression that tone deaf Rs like you are the Ds’ best friend“…

            todd you blithering idiot, I’ve never claimed to be a Republican…

          • Your call. Actually I under the impression that DITZs like you are the Ds’ best friend. BTW I voted for McCain in 08.

          • Your call. Actually I under the impression that DITZs like you are the Ds’ best friend. BTW I voted for McCain in 08“…

            Not my fault todd assuming your claim is actually factual and that is big, damn assumption…

            Liberals, RINOs there’s really not much difference is there ‘Obama boy‘?

          • Oh dear! Poor little todd is throwing a hissy fit: “Q. What’s the difference between Juandos and Oscar the Grouch? A. One of them actually is a puppet“…

            What’s next todd? Stamping your feet and pulling your hair out in impotent rage?

          • Q What’s the difference between Juandos and an ostrich? A. One knows that it has buried its head in the sand.

          • todd continues to whine: “Q What’s the difference between Juandos and an ostrich? A. One knows that it has buried its head in the sand“…

            How do you do it todd, type in your obvious position?

          • I see you’re still not smart enough to figure out how to embed a url yet todd but that’s not suprising…

  4. that forecast was the reason for the Bush tax cuts…
    each of the 6 times in US history where we had a depression, it was preceded by substantial budget surpluses and significant reduction of the debt; this was a concern of the Fed & Bush administration economists early last decade; it became clear that if clinton surpluses continued & our debt was paid down, the financial system would soon experience a dearth of safe assets & would begin to lock up; so the bush tax cuts were initiated in order to keep levels of AAA assets high enough for the markets to operate..

    • And so we had too much capital chasing too few opportunities — in the world of financial intermediation. Had we lived in a ‘perfect world’, where productivity gains were shared among all (and no income inequality), we would have been a lot better off. But alas, that would be a perfect world.

    • This is the dumbest comment I’ve read here. The public had already chosen its risk free investment — real estate — and institutions followed along with agency bonds (fannie and freddie.) The bank strategy du jour was collect deposits rate free, buy agencies and pocket a 300-400 BP spread. The tax cuts threw gasoline on the fire; the Fed sealed the deal in 03 by driving interest rates to ’60s levels and making agencies the only game in town. Then the shadow bank industry blossomed with its own version of “risk-free” assets. Anyone who thought the problem in 01 was what would replace T bills suffered the most spectacular failure of insight in history.

      • No todd, this is the dumbest comment, a larry g quality comment if there ever was one: “The public had already chosen its risk free investment — real estate — and institutions followed along with agency bonds (fannie and freddie.)“…

          • I assume you would explain how I am wrong if you had any command of the facts. I am waiting“…

            Since when does looking at a steaming pile of freshly laid BS need an explanation?

            The public chose nothing of the sort and real estate is risky…

          • You perhaps missed this mea culpa by Alan Greenspan that the markets were not self regulating in the case of the greatest credit bubble in history“….

            Unlike yourself todd I’m not quick off the mark to believe what a government tax leech has to say about anything, let alone something he had a hand in…

            Chump…

          • Just a tip, Juandos. When someone says they screwed up, believe them because it’s not easy to say. I’m guessing you last admitted a mistake in 1972 (as opposed to making mistakes, charitably, at a rate of 10 an hour.)

          • todd‘s witless wisdom: “Just a tip, Juandos. When someone says they screwed up, believe them because it’s not easy to say“…

            You’re so naive its pathetic…

          • Wracked my brain for a Republican joke“…

            Well todd old clown since I’m not a republican I would also like to see a few…

            Here, let me help you out: Democrat jokes or the real deal?

            Q: What’s the difference between a Democrat politician and a leech?
            A: A leech quits sucking your blood after you die.

            You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. You feel guilty for being successful. The government takes one and
            gives it to someone else. Barbara Streisand sings for you.

  5. Mark J. Perry: (note that this was after the Bush tax cuts were passed)

    That was after the first round of tax cuts, but before the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, the Iraq War, and the unfunded Medicare expansion. Also, the baseline assumes that most of the tax cut provisions expired in 2006 and 2010, the AMT fix expired. Not to mention the effects of the financial meltdown.

  6. The CBO is like any other account, his projections are based on the numbers given to them. The Democrats gave the CBO’s office false numbers for the Affordable Care Act to make it look great and under a trillion. After the Bill passed we now know it will cost $2.6 Trillion almost 3x what they told the American people. We should arrest the 535 of them!

  7. Ah, yes. The CBO. Another fine example of our government at work. From 7.4% to 74.0% Hey! Close enough. Just an error in decimal placement. Keep up the good work fellas. Hope obambi gave you a raise too. I have a feeling that you all must have gone to government run union schools.

  8. juandos: Hmmm, now if Zero Hedge is to be believed we have this: Total Debt: $16,432,730,050,569.12; Debt To GDP: 103%

    The original post is referring to the debt held by the public, which does not include intra-governmental debt.

  9. juandos: You can blame Bush all you want, and Obama likes to talk about “two wars on the credit card,” but this chart illustrates that things were actually improving until we got a Democratic Congress in 2007, and got worse when we elected Obama…

    Oh gee whiz. Whatever expansion occurred was topped off by the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression. In any case, you were still comparing apples and oranges.

  10. juandos: Thank your your fellow liberals for that…

    Sorry, but that simply isn’t a tenable position. The housing bubble peaked in 2006, Democrats only gained control of Congress in 2007.

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