Paul Ryan’s Quiet Recklessness

In the mainstream media frame, Donald Trump and Paul Ryan represent opposite poles of the Republican Party. Trump is reckless and Ryan responsible, but that is a false dichotomy, says Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

Some Americans have decided that Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is a “moderate” who might have a restraining effect on GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump. This might be because Ryan’s language is less combative and contentious than Trump’s.

But this is dangerously misleading, for the Speaker’s apparent moderation is an illusion. The truth is that regardless of his choice of words, what Ryan stands for is as disastrously radical as the positions of Trump and the rest of the right-wing Republicans.

Rep. Paul Ryan, with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, speaking to a crowd in New Hampshire. (Photo credit: mittromney.com)

Rep. Paul Ryan, with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, speaking to a crowd in New Hampshire in 2012. (Photo credit: mittromney.com)

America’s “newspaper of record,” the New York Times has caught on to this fact. In an editorial on Ryan’s “economic agenda,” published on June 19, the Times tells us that Ryan’s vision for the U.S. economy is centered around a single, allegedly cure-all idea: “roll back hundreds of federal regulations that protect consumers, investors, employees, borrowers, students, and the environment.” The paper characterizes this as a “corporate wish list.”

Ryan claims that this radical vision of deregulation is in line with Donald Trump’s own economic agenda. Thus, electing Trump and maintaining Republican control over the Congress would most likely result in Ryan’s plan being realized. The Speaker thinks this would lead to a period of economic growth that would benefit everyone – an economic utopia. However, this prognosis is also an illusion.

Another “Gilded Age” Dystopia

In truth, Ryan’s plan would result in an economic dystopia – a society characterized by human misery. This assertion is not based on simple disdain for Republican Party posturing. It is based on history – a history of which Ryan apparently knows little. It is based on the fact that Ryan’s deregulated economic experiment has already taken place and proved to be catastrophic. That is why the U.S. now has the regulatory system it does today.

What the House Speaker apparently wants to do is resurrect the so-called Gilded Age. That was the period of American history following the Civil War when the economy grew rapidly but in an unregulated fashion. If you will, the “Gilded Age” economy operated apart from the rule of law, unless of course you believe in the ideologically posited “laws” of capitalism and the mystical notion of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” guiding the marketplace.

During this period of U.S. history, a small class of entrepreneurs got very rich (their mansions and palatial grounds can still be visited today). But they operated with no reference to the basic human needs, or safety, of the community they lived in. And so, in their own lifetimes they were both envied and denounced, and soon became known as “robber barons.”

A classic photo of a poor mother and children in Elm Grove, California, during the Great Depression. (Photo credit: Library of Congress)

A classic photo of a poor mother and children in Elm Grove, California, during the Great Depression. (Photo credit: Library of Congress)

 

The entire historical episode had a terrible dark side. If you think consumer vulnerability is a problem today, it was much, much worse in the era before regulation.

For instance: most medicines (“patent medicines” often called “snake oil”) were sold in adulterated condition; food products were also adulterated with cheapened or impure ingredients; child labor was widespread; unions were considered a form of restraint of trade; there was no minimum wage; there were no safety standards for workers; monopoly enterprises grew; banking practices led to one panic after another, running into the Twentieth Century, and finally culminating in the Great Depression; there was rampant job instability; railroad practices ruined farmers in the Midwest; land, sea and air were polluted without restraint.

This is the sort of conditions that arise in the absence of economic rules and regulations.

Paul Ryan acts as if he knows nothing of this dark side. And perhaps he really doesn’t. He is an ideologue, and as such he cares more about his laissez-faire ideology than he does about historic reality. He “knows” only what is filtered through the theoretical scheme to which he adheres.

So it should come as no surprise that a free-market ideologue such as Ryan has idealized, indeed has romanticized, the Gilded Age of economic expansion to such an extent that, for him, this distorted vision of the national past has been resurrected as a model for the national future. And how do we get back to this economic utopia? By eliminating all regulation and thereby turning the henhouse over to the foxes.

America’s Comfort Zone

The New York Times editorial asserts that “the American people are unlikely to be comfortable” with Ryan’s economic plans. Of course, “American people” is an unwieldy generalization. Certainly many of Donald Trump’s supporters are backing him because of what they perceive as government interference in their lives.

Billionaire businessman and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Billionaire businessman and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

These individuals exaggerate individual instances of conflict with this or that regulation into a near hatred of all regulation. Many others will support Trump for different reasons and won’t even bother to give serious thought to Ryan’s economic scheme.

Presently, Trump and Clinton are running nearly even in several key states. Will this continue? If so, could it be that the Times has misjudged what the majority of the voting public might find “comfortable”?

Never underestimate the power of dogma when propagandistically spread about among people who do not know much history. As the propaganda spreads out, dogma replaces reality. Thinking automatically narrows.

Of course, the Democrats will try to counter the GOP worldview, but they also are opportunists. If Ryan’s passion for deregulation catches on, perhaps the Democrats will come up with their own compromise version of the Speaker’s scheme.

The most exasperating part of all this is that the likely consequences of much of this Republican thinking has been seen before and we therefore know where it leads. Thus, it bears repeating that what in Ryan’s vision is a utopia has already been historically proven to be its opposite – a dystopia.

The haunting refrain that history is bound to repeat itself is true only if we let it be so. And when our leaders’ plans and schemes spell predictable disaster – well, only the self-deluded and the truly ignorant would go there.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.

 

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23 comments for “Paul Ryan’s Quiet Recklessness

  1. J'hon Doe II
    June 28, 2016 at 10:25 am

    “Ryan claims that this radical vision of deregulation is in line with Donald Trump’s own economic agenda. Thus, electing Trump and maintaining Republican control over the Congress would most likely result in Ryan’s plan being realized. The Speaker thinks this would lead to a period of economic growth that would benefit everyone – an economic utopia. However, this prognosis is also an illusion.

    In truth, Ryan’s plan would result in an economic dystopia – a society characterized by human misery.”
    ::

    Below is the offspring/by product of Neoliberal/Neoconservative reckless deregulatory policies… .
    >>
    More refugees on Earth than EVER before: Migrant tide hits record 65MILLION

    http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/681438/Refugee-crisis-UN-report-more-migrants-Earth-65-million

  2. IAL
    June 28, 2016 at 11:42 am

    Paul Ryan, like most other Republican and Democratic “leaders”, is just another corporate stooge.
    These elite dumdums listen to NO ONE but those at group-think-tanks or those with wads of cash.

    Pardon me but I am tired of living in a world run by people who think they are smart but who, despite all their academic training, are intellectual masturbaters who: 1) don’t listen, 2) think they are always right, 3) think those of us that are not part of the DC elite need them to “help us” make good decisions, and 4) think we are stupid when some of us have MORE EDUCATION THAN THEY DO!!

    People are dying in America because of their stupidy, their arrogance, their lack of listening to their constiutents, and their lack of morality.

    Our “leaders” in Washington DC (and around the world) are idiots. They are bought and paid for tools who work for whoever has the most money to shell out at the time of their “vote”.

    They DONT GIVE A DAMN that their people are dying, or that their sytems are rigged to benefit the immoral rich.

    This is NOT about globalization. This is a MORALITY PROBLEM.

    Paul Ryan and others in DC cannot claim to be morally superior and to work for the rights of Americnas while simultaneouly doing the following:

    1) Allowing corporations more rights than workers – e.g. credit checks, access to personal information in “wellness programs”, using credit for promotions, etc. when this information has NO BUSINESS being allowed in business AFTER ONE OF THE LARGEST RECESSIONS IN US HISTORY WHEN 93% of US COUNTIES HAVE NOT RECOVERED!
    2) Making corporations above the law in trade deals – e.g. TTIP, TTP, etc. – so that they cannot be sued and are basically off the hook for misconduct.
    3) Allowing the CIA and other other government agencies to use propaganda against the American people in the media – e.g. Washington Post and other mainstream media outlets – which are CLEARLY government propaganda mouthpieces – I am sorry but exactly when did we become the USSA?
    4) Bringing in immigrants by the bus load (via UN programs against our immigration laws) and then giving them more in benefits than those on Social Security that contributed all of their lives to this country.
    5) Budeting billions for a defense/military industrial complex that WRITES OFF around $6 BILLION a year THAT THEY CANNOT ACCOUNT FOR IN THEIR BOOKS! – now to the TUNE OF OVER $8 TRILLION DOLLARS SINCE THE 1990’s!
    6) Allowing Obamacare to continue and having employer mandates for healthcare – and Paul Ryan’s new “fix-it” plan is the same-ol-same-ol with the same flawed logic.

    This list could continue but I am DONE!

    This corrupt country is the new ROMAN EMPIRE – it is failing because we have SOLD-OUT STOOGES like Paul Ryan in office and the people are being lied to in the media by their own government.

    Silly government – DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND THAT YOU ARE DESTROYING THE VERY FABRIC OF THE COUNTRY THAT ALLOWS YOU TO HAVE A PAYCHECK BY BEING A BUNCH OF IMMORAL SOLD OUT JERKS!

    THIS COUNTRY AND DEMOCRACY AND YOUR JOBS ARE NOT ABOUT YOUR BANK ACCOUNTS OR YOUR LEGACIES.

    JUDGEMENT BY THE PEOPLE IS COMING. ARE YOU READY?

    IAL Ph.D. MBA

    • Zachary Smith
      June 28, 2016 at 10:15 pm

      Paul Ryan, like most other Republican and Democratic “leaders”, is just another corporate stooge.

      You sure got that right.

      There is more than one way to destroy the hated Federal Government, and Ryan’s favorite way is to enact the TPP treaty. That way we’ll rather quickly ease into a situation where who the voters elect or what those elected officials do won’t really matter much. Big Business will legally do what it pleases.

      “Paul Ryan: Fast-Track Approval for TPP ‘Important’ for US”

      Trump is a horrible, horrible candidate for President, but I swear I’d rather have him in the White House than Ryan.

      http://www.newsmax.com/Politics/Paul-Ryan-TPA-TPP-fast-track/2015/05/20/id/645870/

      • Rikhard Ravindra Tanskanen
        June 29, 2016 at 12:56 pm

        “Bringing in immigrants by the bus load”? First of all, those are refugees – they have a right to be in the United States. Second of all, there are more deportations of illegal immigrants than illegal immigrants coming into the United States, since you are invoking illegal immigrants.

        Also, I never thought of Paul Ryan as a moderate. I did think of him and Trump as opposites but only because Ryan is a neoconservative and Trump is anti-Establishment.

        • IAL
          June 29, 2016 at 9:09 pm

          No RRT – these people do not have a right to be in the US. We supposedly have immigration laws that state that people cannot just enter the US according to their will.

          President Obama is not enforcing the law – perhaps you care do you some reading on your own so you can catch up.

          • IAL
            June 29, 2016 at 9:17 pm

            Also, bringing in millions of refugees that have incompatible cultural backgrounds and sticking them in US cities and rual counties is not a smart plan.

            Unless you are trying to destroy the culture norms of this country through totalitarianism.

            Why do you think the patriots are so angry and supporting Donald Trump?

      • Rikhard Ravindra Tanskanen
        June 29, 2016 at 12:57 pm

        While the above poster is right on anti-corporate sentiment, why didn’t you criticize his views on refugees and immigration?

        • Zachary Smith
          June 29, 2016 at 8:28 pm

          The gentleman was on a rant, and not a bad one either. After closely examining his post, I failed to see the word “refugees”. If that’s what he really meant, it blew right by me.

          However, he did speak of “immigration”. I happen to oppose illegal immigration, and am OK with legal immigration so long as it’s within reasonable limits.

          Finally, since I got my first internet computer 16-17 years ago, I’ve concluded that I don’t have to make a bet on every race at the track.

          https://thei535project.wordpress.com/2015/11/01/i-cant-go-to-bed-yet-someone-on-the-internet-is-wrong/

          • IAL
            June 29, 2016 at 9:15 pm

            Legal immigration is not the problem unless it is attached to H1-B or other types of visa programs that the government is allowing to contine.

            All of these visa programs lower the wages of US workers – by design.

            Again I suggest reading alternative news sources – zerohedge.com or infowars.com or drudgereport.com who routinely highlight these issues in more detail.

            The ACTUAL TRUTH of what our government is doing will destroy this country.

            Perhaps that is their actual agenda.

            By the way I am not a “gentleman”. I am a lady that is angry that we have such incompetent people in government.

        • IAL
          June 29, 2016 at 9:12 pm

          Same thing – both the Republicans and Democrats are hell bent on destroying this country by importing low-wage workers – either through H1-B visas or through open borders and not enforcing the laws of this country.

          Again. Perhaps you should do some reading of what is actually going on – but since you likely read only main stream media I should tell you that you need to go outside of propaganda media.

          I suggest zerohedge.com and infowars.com and drugereport.com for starters.

      • IAL
        June 29, 2016 at 9:23 pm

        Yes, Trump would be better. Hillary is a warmonger and will only cause more wars.

        My question is when can we rid ourselves of these Keynesian economists and their banker and government stooges – not to mention Ayn Randites that are destroying this country and the rest of the world!

        God be merciful while we get these evil jerks out of office!

  3. Joe Tedesky
    June 28, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    Paul Ryan wants an America such as we had in the nineteenth century. An America which the courts always ruled in favor of the owner classes civil rights. Remember, this was a Hamiltonian America where the ruling class ruled, over the unprincipled and uneducated lower class. There you go Andrew Sullivan, a Plato’s warning which ignored the under class at every turn. People forget, or they have no idea, of why congress found it necessary to pass Glass–Steagall Legislation. An America who avoided Communism, and allowed the Wagner Act protecting the right to unionize to become law. Social security, and Medicare, didn’t come easy, and only became the standard due to the many heart breaking cases of people suffering in their older years. Plus, there was a spirit in this country, where people really did want this country to become all inclusive of it’s American population. For gods sake we had compassion for one another. And oh, by the way, the wealthy did very well ‘thank you’ under these rules. The wealthy never paid the full ninety percent taxes you will hear them cry about, because of all the loop holes there were to lessen their tax burden, they paid about a third of that tax liability. Paul Ryan is just one more huckster who is indebted to the modern day robber barons. It’s just to damn bad that when people such as Ryan decide to sell out their soul, that so many others of us need to suffer due to their greed, and desire for promotion. Excluding the hand full of good American politicians that are around we Americans and the world are screwed, when it comes to us having good leadership. It is time for the pendulum to swing in the other direction, and I can’t wait until it does. We of the commons are way overdue for just and responsible, and might I add accountable leaders.

    Here is a nice read, by Matt Taibbi;

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-reaction-to-brexit-is-the-reason-brexit-happened-20160627

    • J'hon Doe II
      June 29, 2016 at 9:56 am

      MATT TAIBBI
      If you believe there’s such a thing as “too much democracy,” you probably don’t believe in democracy at all
      June 27, 2016

      ::

      Samuel P. Huntington

      The Crisis of Democracy,
      by Michel Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington, and Joji Watnuki
      (excerpt)

      1. The sixties as a decade of “democratic renewal”: “The 1960s witnessed a dramatic renewal of the democratic spirit in America. The predominant trends of that decade involved the challenging of the authority of established political, social, and economic institutions, increased popular participation in and control over those institutions, a reaction against the concentration of power in the executive branch of the federal government and in favor of the reassertion of the power of Congress and of state and local government, renewed commitment to the idea of equality on the part of intellectuals and other elites, the emergence of the ‘public interest’ lobbying groups, increased concern for the rights of and provisions of opportunities for minorities and women to participate in the polity and economy, and a pervasive criticism of those who possessed or were even thought to possess excessive power or wealth. . . . It was a decade of democratic surge and of the reassertion of democratic egalitarianism” (59-60).

      In addition to increased campaign activity, there was “a marked upswing in other forms of citizen participation, in the form of marches, demonstrations, protest movements, and ‘cause’ organizations…” (61). There were “markedly higher levels of self-consciousness on the part of blacks, Indians, Chicanos, white ethnic groups, students, and women,” all seeking “their appropriate share of the action and of the rewards” (61).

      “Previously passive or unorganized groups in the population now embarked on concerted efforts to establish their claims to opportunities, positions, rewards, and privileges, which they had not considered themselves entitled to before” (61-62).

      “…the sixties also saw a reassertion of the primacy of equality as a goal in social, economic, and political life. The meaning of equality and the means of achieving it became central subjects of debate in intellectual and policy-oriented circles. What was widely hailed as the major philosophical treatise of the decade (Rawls, A Theory of Justice) defined justice largely in terms of equality” (62).

      “The essence of the democratic surge of the 1960s was a general challenge to existing systems of authority, public and private. . . . People no longer felt the same compulsion to obey those whom they had previously considered superior to themselves in age, rank, status, expertise, character, or talents. Within most organizations, discipline eased and differences in status became blurred. . . . More precisely, in American society, authority had been commonly based on: organizational position, economic wealth, specialized expertise, legal competence, or electoral representativeness. Authority based on hierarchy, expertise, and wealth all, obviously, ran counter to the democratic and egalitarian temper of the times. . .” (75).

      http://pages.uoregon.edu/jboland/hntngton.html

    • IAL
      June 29, 2016 at 9:26 pm

      I salute you Joe. Thank you very much.

  4. christina
    June 28, 2016 at 9:50 pm

    I live in Wisconsin, and I can say with evidence , this state was bought and paid for by ALEC , the Koch Foundation, The Heritage Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, and others. One would not recognize this state from what it was in 2010. Scott Walker, the Fitzgerald Brothers, Paul Ryan, Ron Johnson, and on and on. Where did these people come from? Who supports them? Who tries to make them look like the smartest guys in the room? I am so ashamed that anyone would take Paul Ryan seriously. Publicity stunt? He and his family “cleaned” an already cleaned community kitchen for a photograph. Paul Ryan is such a phony, it just makes me so upset. Ron Johnson claims to be a “businessman” and knows what is best for everyone. Johnson is just another millionaire in the senate who is woefully ignorant. I am so sad about my home state. Many of us are not fooled by Ryan, Walker, Johnson , or the Fitzgeralds. These men ruined this state

  5. Bill Bodden
    June 29, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    Thank you for this excellent article to be added to my rap sheet on Paul Ryan. Unfortunately, he is not unique. In Germany in the 1930s men like him were gung-ho members of Heinrich Himmler’s Schutzstaffel (SS). If, instead, he had been raised on our East Coast he might have become a hit man for the Mafia. Instead, he is ensconced in Congress where he can willingly, perhaps happily, do the bidding of his sponsors in the company of like-minded moral wretches. He makes a good case for not allowing young people to read Ayn Rand before they have a moral compass and are mature enough to see through her fantasies.

    • Joe Tedesky
      June 29, 2016 at 4:37 pm

      Bill, why insult hit-men? My cousins in Philly are hurt very deeply by your comment. Maybe change hit-man to banker, and I’ll put a good word in for you with the family. arrivederci JT

      • Bill Bodden
        June 29, 2016 at 5:37 pm

        My apologies to your cousins, Joe. There might also be some SS men rolling over in the graves considering it an insult to be equated with Herr Ryan.

        • Joe Tedesky
          June 29, 2016 at 7:48 pm

          va bene

  6. J'hon Doe II
    June 29, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    “…the sixties also saw a reassertion of the primacy of equality as a goal in social, economic, and political life. The meaning of equality and the means of achieving it became central subjects of debate in intellectual and policy-oriented circles. What was widely hailed as the major philosophical treatise of the decade (Rawls, A Theory of Justice) defined justice largely in terms of equality” (62).

    “The essence of the democratic surge of the 1960s was a general challenge to existing systems of authority, public and private

    ::
    The neoliberal/conservative answer to “social justice” is more prisons, “smaller gov’t ‘ and austerity. There is no premise of equality. There is only brutal Enforcement of Characterization as in “keep the rabble in their place” and lower expectation for the rapidly diminishing former “middle class.”
    ::

    A nonprofit and a daily dig deep into Chicago’s handling of police misconduct allegations

    “A pair of investigations that arrived just days apart last week—one from a small nonprofit, the other by a leading daily—brought new scrutiny to the way the city of Chicago handles allegations of police misconduct. The reports, each based on an analysis of hundreds of lawsuits, highlight the soaring cost of alleged misconduct to taxpayers, the city’s failure to track patterns of abuse, and the extent to which officials try to keep crucial information under wraps.

    One of the investigations, a remarkable effort by The Chicago Reporter, found that the city spent more than $210 million for settlements or judgments stemming from police misconduct lawsuits between 2012 and 2015, borrowing money to pay the tab at a time when the city already is struggling with crippling debt. The nonprofit newsroom’s report also emphasized that the city does not analyze the lawsuits for trends, something other major cities do in order to address police misconduct and curb legal costs.”
    ::

    Would that money be better spent on quality education, better equipment in public parks and the like rather than an emphasis on Neighborhood Lockdown and “broken windows” policing?

    The resistance to “equality” that began in the 60’s reached a damning turning point with the arrival of Ronald Reagan. All manner of hell broke loose in American cities under Reagan and continued robustly under Bill (“I am a conservative”) Clinton.

    Instead of better schools and housing, for example, there was a great growth in the Prison Industry — aided and abetted by Reagan-Clinton, CIA cocaine trafficking in all US cities along with the sudden influx of weapons that simply weren’t ordinarily available.

    ::
    A nonprofit and a daily dig deep into Chicago’s handling of police misconduct allegations

    “It wasn’t long before patterns started to emerge, Newman said. “A lot of these cases were about false arrest, people stopped without probable cause. It took one round of entering data on these cases to read through and to comb through to see that.”

    One thing that Newman found surprising—and disturbing, given the nature of many of the allegations against police—was how small most of the settlements were. Half paid out $36,000 or less. “It’s not like you’re getting a free ride or access to upper mobility with the amounts,” he said.

    Still, the cases add up to a substantial cost for the city. Susan Smith Richardson, editor and publisher of the Reporter, said she had been interested for a while in making the connection between police misconduct allegations, which disproportionately affect black and Hispanic residents, and the fiscal impact for the entire city.”

    http://www.cjr.org/united_states_project/two_investigations_chicago_police_misconduct_allegations.php

    ::
    Maintaining this harsh status quo of enforced inequality is essentially “The New Jim Crow” – as asserted by Michele Alexander in her well researched book.

    A “prison education” can only assure More criminality and the growth of a Prison Mentality inside those demoralized ghetto neighborhoods.

    Paul Ryan and the horde of “Smaller Gov’t” hawks only perpetuate the death cults that perpetuate constantly rising murder rates in US ghetto neighborhoods. They don’t care ! They simply just don’t care.. Nor do the majority of everyday Americans care- “Let um kill each other off,” is the predominant attitude even among readers of Consortium news.

    The concept of a Revolution of Values is just as dead as MLK’s “Dream” — fact is, his “dream” never had any chance of a reality in “America the Beautiful.”

    Politicians like Ryan are constantly elected to ensure that
    “social justice” and “equality”
    Never See The Light Of Day in this —
    “one nation, under god, with liberty and justice for all… .”

  7. J'hon Doe II
    June 29, 2016 at 7:47 pm

    Geographies of Austerity: Mark Blyth

    Durham University
    Published on Dec 7, 2015

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6_NuN4JfwM

  8. Bill Bodden
    June 29, 2016 at 7:56 pm

    To a great extent Bernie Sanders’ revolution is supported by people with a sense of economic injustice. Among the prominent reasons for Brits voting for Brexit was a similar consciousness of economic injustice. Paul Ryan, Martin Shrkeli and their ilk don’t give a damn about economic injustice or the people who are at the short end of the economic stick.

    It is politicians such as Paul Ryan and his colleagues and the people who vote them into office who have rendered reciting the pledge of allegiance into an act of national hypocrisy. … [O]ne nation, … , indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. That’ll be the day with that lot in Congress.

    • IAL
      June 29, 2016 at 9:28 pm

      Correct Bill!

      We need to wake up the people so they will stop believing these liars in Congress.

      Our country is at stake.

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