In Defense Of Bernie Sanders (No, Really)

This is a follow up to Anne Laurie’s post below, and continuing proof that the front pagers are not all different accounts from the same troll factory in Grovers Mill, New Jersey.

Disclaimer, or reclaimer, or full disclosure or something.  Bernie isn’t my first choice, or second, or third. I think he’s a disingenuous ego-driven politician who did a lot of damage in 2016, has a record of actual progressive accomplishment that is, to be charitable, thin, who does not walk the walk in crucial ways, and who, IMHO, would be the leading candidate most likely to lose to Donald Trump in 2020 of all the leading potential Democratic Party nominees.  Of the top five, my personal ranking right now is Warren, Harris as a close second, Buttigieg as a more distant third, another gap to get to Biden, and then a yet bigger gap to Sanders.

All that said, the arguments about his spending plans and their purported reliance on the monetary theory to which his lead economic advisor subscribes seem to me to have some bad numbers behind them, and to overstate the case against the heterodox ideas of Modern Monetary Theory.

This all caught my eye in part because my current project (Money for Nothing, Random House, due out in June 2020) spends some time with John Law, the Scottish duelist, gambler, adventurer, architect of one of the first great financial and stock market bubbles, and early monetary theorist.  Law was a genuinely astonishing character: born to a Scottish banker, he inherited young, headed to London and lived a basically worthless, wastrel’s life — drinking, womanizing, gambling (ineptly, at this stage). (Here’s a contemporary memoir that has the fun details.)  In 1694, when he was in his early 20s and running out of his father’s money, he got into a duel — for reasons that are still somewhat obscure, but may well have been scandalous.  He killed his man, was charged with murder, and escaped to the Continent, where he began to develop into the man we now remember.

When Law was finally able to put his ideas into action in France between 1716 and 1720, some of them worked and have evolved into ordinary financial tools, and others, quite spectacularly, did not — and it’s that story that informs some of my thinking about MMT (for all that I know the past is a different country, and radically alien context in which Law worked limits the direct lessons one may draw from his day into ours).

All that digression is both a sop to my current obsession and a long-winded way of saying I’m not an economist; I’m not remotely an expert on MMT or any macro-economic theory; I’m just a guy with a habit of reading odd stuff. I did have the advantage this a.m. of having a tame heterodox economist in the house (my sister in law), and we did talk about this post, but everything that follows is my folly.  Discount accordingly.

All the windup leads to two simple objections to the Bernie disdain in some of the tweets Anne Laurie quoted, and some of the comments that flowed from it.

The first, simpler point is that thinking in this tweet is just wrong:

Here are the problems, in order from top to bottom.  The US and most countries don’t tax wealth, they tax income, which can be approximated as GDP.  So the US takes in close to $2.5 trillion in income and payroll taxes per year on about, estimated for 2019, about or a little above $21 trillion in GDP (see table 7).

There are two things to take away from those numbers for the kind of broad brush examination of Sanders’ plans (or anyone else’s).  The first is the tax rate.  While there are a bunch of ways to calculate that, the crude revenue/GDP ratio gives you a first approximation: the US taxes its citizens at about 15%.* Looking at international comparisons, which look at more sources of tax than the simple income tax figure above, total US taxes add up to 26% of GDP. Why is this important? Because it shows that there’s plenty of room to add more revenue by taxing the rich and well to do at higher rates.  Using that 26% number, we rank 30th among OECD countries in tax rates; the average for all the members is about 33%.

All of which to say is that paying for more services costs money; the many nations that offer more services raise that money through taxation, and we could too, if we choose.  There’s nothing unreasonable about Sanders — or any other Democrats’ plans — on that score.

The next objection to that tweet above is that it is, bluntly, bullshit; a deliberate (it seems likely to me) act of obfuscation to make Sanders’ ideas look like unicorns and rainbows when they really aren’t.  The tax revenue figure is for a single year’s takings.  The “$50T” price tag for Sanders’ program covers a bunch of years — ten, I think for the health care package, I think; fifteen on the climate change proposal and so on.

So if you do the elementary mental leap of adding a numerator to the $50 trillion denominator, you get a spending program of something like $5 trillion a year.  Still a lot of money — but a sum that a program of tax increases to levels that are commonplace in most developed countries would go a long way to finding.  To put that into dollar figures: 26% of GDP = ~$5.25 trillion. 33% would get that number up to $~7 trillion, which would advance as GDP grows over the ten year period we’re thinking about.  Given that Sanders’ plan would scoop up some existing spending — that extra eighteen trillion or so over the next decade gets it some distance towards a plausible funding model.

That leads to the last thought just on the financing side of Sanders (and, again, other D plans).  Government spending isn’t static.  For one thing, and in some cases — as in health care payments, some of the issue is that Sanders (and others) are not actually shifting resources, or that much, from one form of consumption to another:  if individuals don’t have to shell out post-tax income for medical services, and the aggregate amount of taxation to pay for those services isn’t more than that formerly individual/employer bill, then, as Sanders has vociferously argued, one should focus on what other (hopefully good) things come from such a restructuring of the health care system.

More generally, government spending on certain things can produce growth effects that increase the total output of the economy, increasing GDP over baseline, and thus, by conventional definitions, making us as a country more wealthy.  Health care that really covers everyone and reduces days and productivity lost to un- or under-treated medical stuff is one way you get there.  Spending on education, getting rid of educational debt that inhibits entrepreneurship and such, climate change investment (which a lot of studies have shown produces significant economic activity) and so on — all these are not simply deadweight costs.  They are investments that yield returns over time — returns, which it happens, we can tax.

Ultimately, while it’s a mugs game to claim that everything progressives might want to buy will pay for itself, the notion that government spending is merely red on the balance sheet is simply wrong. We have a long, long record showing the reverse — and demonstrating that it does matter what you spend on.  Buying a cruise missile is less economically stimulative than building a stretch of a modern electrical grid; handing a tax cut (which is a form of spending) to extremely wealthy people does less for the country as a whole than paying for a graduate student (or a pre-school), etc.  Sanders’ priorities, and those of the entire D field are stimulative in this way — all of which makes the framing in that tweet above that much worse.

This has gone on longer than it should, so just briefly, a pivot to the Modern Monetary Theory argument.  MMT is not simply a radical new strand of thinking that substitutes left wing unicorns for the right wing’s supply side stuff.  As noted in the John Law blathering above, it has a long pre-history, and up to a point, an interesting and potentially useful present. In part, that’s because it’s not a wholly radical break with conventional theory, but rather, an extension of it, even if it extends perhaps further than the bough can hold.

That is: no one doubts that government money-creation and spending of that money can stimulate the economy and aid employment.  MMT and conventional Keynesian both predict that quantitative easing, the program of issuing money to allow the Federal Reserve to buy financial assets that helped the recovery from the GOP-Bush led Great Recession, would actually work, though they posit different mechanisms for how such a move makes a difference.

There are profound disagreements, of course, and my heterodox confidant, a micro-economist and not an MMT partisan, argued to me that she worries about two things: making sure new money is spent on useful things (health care and climate response tick those boxes for me), and that we look at claims that monetary expansion won’t cause inflation with enormous skepticism.  There is a fair amount of both theory and empirical experience that suggests that it can and does — as John Law himself found (with the different-context caveat applied again). That makes an all-in bet on MMT a very poor proposition, in my humble opinion.

(But also remember that the economics profession is one that skews conservative not just in its politics but in its habits of mind, and that MMT thinkers are very likely much more practical and empirically based than the easiest reactions to them would have you believe. A suggestion that MMT thinkers are plotting a path straight to German hyperinflation c. 1922 is not likely to be an accurate or an unmotivated claim.)

But even if I don’t exactly leap at the thought of handing the lead economic role at the White House to Stephanie Kelton, I note that, first, the former chief economist of the Senate Budget Committee would be a huge step up on Larry Kudlow (not exactly a high bar).

More important: Sanders spending plans are hugely ambitious. So are Warren’s, though I think the price tag there might be a little less, and so, to some degree or another are those of every serious Democratic contender.  Meeting those costs will require specific choices about the tools with which to do so: raising revenue, cutting other expenditures, perhaps, and borrowing — the last of which is one way that the US government can inject more money into the economy, before one gets to the MMT mechanism of creating new currency without issuing debt.

There are both important academic arguments and real world issues about MMT.  Given the history of inflation and hyperinflations, I’d be very surprised if the theory’s formal construction fully survives contact with the real world, in which property it is different from exactly no other macro-economic frameworks.  It could be just wrong, but given that it is to many observers (though not to either its most devoted proponents or antagonists) as much an evolutionary variant of Keynesian ideas as it is a repudiation of them, I’m guessing it has a lot more overlap with experience than its loudest Austrian opponents would have you believe.

But for American politics in 2019, MMT is a sideshow, a distraction.  The underlying question now is: can the US afford major social programs and significant investment in physical and social capital that will take years to mature?

That question has an answer.

Yes.

So, while I remain no Bernie Sanders fan, and I will not vote for him the primary, the cost of his proposals ain’t the reason why.**

*Yes, I’m ignoring state and local taxes; yes local property taxes are taxes on assets, not income. There’s a lot of cranking that needs to be done to make this a complete account; for now, this is a response to the level of criticism folks level not just at Sanders, but all Democratic plans for social spending.

**There’s another question: do I think Sanders’ plans make sense, or are the best way of achieving their various goals.  That’s another post; for now I’ll just note that there are plenty of physics, materials science and engineering constraints that weigh more on his climate change plan than its raw cost.  Some of that over-reach is OK too — I’m fine with setting goals that we know are hard to achieve.  Some is not. Proposing the impossible is no way to gain the credibility to push what is do-able through.  But again, that’s for another post, and probably one I won’t find the time to write.

Images: both by Marinus van Reymerswaele, Money Changers and Two Tax Collectorseach from before 1550.






132 replies
  1. 1
    Jharp says:

    I too rank Harris and Warren as the top candidates.

    At first I preferred Harris but Warren has done a better job of interviewing for the job.

    So far.

  2. 2

    Even capital gains and estate taxes are based on ‘You made money in this transaction,’ not on wealth.

  3. 3
    Momentary says:

    I am a big Warren stan and am not a fan of Bernie, but honesty compels me to report that when I went looking to see what indigenous folks were saying about Warren’s latest overtures, I was surprised to see that Bernie has a really good track record with them. So credit where it’s due.

  4. 4
    Baud says:

    Shorter OP: Arguments against my enemy are not necessarily being made by my friends.

    I agree.

  5. 5
    Another Scott says:

    Excellent. Thanks Tom.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  6. 6
    Baud says:

    @Momentary:

    To repeat what I said in the earlier thread, my beef with Bernie does not arise out of his policy objectives.

  7. 7
    Thomas LEVENSON says:

    @Baud: shorter! But I am a sovereign wordsmith and can issue as much verbiage as needed to attain full vocabulary employment. Modern Logorrhea Theory.

  8. 8
    Baud says:

    @Thomas LEVENSON:

    Modern Vocabulary Theory!

  9. 9
    Mary G says:

    My concern is that the devil is in the details and given Bernie’s low quality campaign staff, it’s doubtful that actually trying to achieve anything without it turning into a giant clusterfuck.

    Warren probably has already compiled a list of her first, second, and third choices for every single position a president fills, cause that’s how she rolls.

  10. 10
    JPL says:

    @Baud: Did he win the MVT?
    Thanks Tom. On an early morning thread a bernie bro was arguing that printing money was going to solve all our problems.

  11. 11
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    I read The Gamester many years ago if that helps.

  12. 12
    JPL says:

    If I could print an extra trillion, I’d use on infrastructure and green technology.

  13. 13
    namekarB says:

    Native to Alta California. Was not aware of Harris’s record as San Francisco District Attorney. She was a “meh” progressive California Attorney General. Much better Senator than AG. Looking over the Democratic landscape, I would prefer that Harris remain as a US Senator. Plus Warren has given a better overall job interview.

  14. 14
    A Ghost To Most says:

    I do not trust St. Bernards.

    Canine or human.

  15. 15
    JPL says:

    Warren is excelling on the campaign trail, but I worry about her trade policies. They appear to be a restrictive as trump’s if not more so.

  16. 16
    karen marie says:

    That’s a big nope from me. Let him get his own party.

  17. 17
    Chris T. says:

    To paraphrase (or maybe mis-paraphrase) Krugman, the main argument against MMT seems to me to be similar to the problem with “AI” in computer science: as soon as you pin them down on something in particular, the MMT people say “but that’s not what MMT is”. Nobody will say what it is. You get a lot of: if X happened, that might be it. Then—at least in AI—someone invents an algorithm that makes X happen. “Oh, yes, I see. Well, that’s not it.”

  18. 18
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @karen marie: A nope on what?

  19. 19
    Mathguy says:

    Glad to see this post. That tweet was pretty terrible and deserved dissection.

  20. 20
    Ruckus says:

    Tom
    It sounds like we come at the main issue of your post in slightly different ways but with similar results. One of the quibbles I have with the BS plan is that it screams at us to shut up and do as we say and all will be fine. Which is about the gist of his entire concept of governing. We have seen that no matter what they say, republican financial concepts are give us all your money and fuck off. Not exactly what I’d call good neighboring. BS is saying the same thing and we’ve been fighting this fight my entire life. BS may want slightly different results but really has no idea how to get anything done other than give us your money and fuck off. It’s a shitty way to run a country of any size but especially a democracy. Even if it is a representative one.
    As you say we have other taxes as well. And 50 different ways/rates of getting to the end result. With that we end up with 50 different concepts of taxes for things, along with the things we need to do with the taxes and the sharing of them. So we are always going to have a lot of differing concepts of how and how much to tax, as long as we have so many differing ways to get to an end.

  21. 21
    NotMax says:

    The more complex the question, the less easy any answer. Planetary climate is by definition complex.

  22. 22
    Jay says:

    BUSTED: Texas governor @GregAbbott_TX sent racist call-to-arms the day before #ElPasoShooting: "Take matters into our own hands."This is the same guy who made it legal to carry guns into mental hospitals and defended a law banning dildos.Words matter. Republicans count on it pic.twitter.com/l9hhTAgl2T— Bryan Dawson (@BryanDawsonUSA) August 23, 2019

  23. 23
    Gvg says:

    Republicans of the Tax cut small government type have been working the refs for decades now and have convinced too much of the population that all government spending is hopeless waste instead of some of it being smart investments. The population doesn’t even know that they have been propagandized into hiding under the bed instead of thinking up solutions. Maybe the self styled socialist will provide cover for someone else to run just a bit more conservative appearing and win. Bernie May draw fire that otherwise would be aimed at the next biggest idea person. Maybe, I am not sure. I do think it’s good that more than one candidate is out there with bigger proposals.

  24. 24
    Yarrow says:

    @Baud: Yep. Me too. Also, having good policy objectives and having shown the ability to get your legislation through Congress are not the same thing.

  25. 25
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷 says:

    @Ruckus:

    BS may want slightly different results but really has no idea how to get anything done other than give us your money and fuck off. It’s a shitty way to run a country of any size but especially a democracy.

    As you allude to, I don’t think there would be much difference between a president Sanders and Trump. Perhaps less insanity, but I think Sanders would be very ineffective at getting what he wants done, even with a Dem congress. He just doesn’t seem to be a team player to me and has this holier-than-thou approach to everything in addition to just not being very knowledgeable about his supposed bread and butter issues. That 2016 NYDN interview is evidence enough of that.

  26. 26
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷 says:

    @Yarrow:
    This. All of his supporters like to point to all of his legislative achievements. I mean, what are they, for a guy who spent 30 years in Congress?

  27. 27
    Jay says:

    There are about 20 people in the courtroom that are supporting @DevinCow, with shirts cow stuffed animals and cow ears. No Nunes, despite Breitbart reports that he should be here.— Kate Irby (@kateirby) August 23, 2019

  28. 28
    kmeyerthelurker says:

    Thanks for posting this. Sanders isn’t in my top 5 either, but I don’t think he rises to the level of scorn he often receives here. MMT is not crackpot stuff. A fair amount of it sounds counterintuitive, but the theory is orders of magnitude sounder than supply side bullshit. IANAE, but I know a few, and the gist of it is that there is a TON more wiggle room with deficit spending when that spending is wisely targeted (i.e. directed toward things with strong multiplier effects).

  29. 29
    oldster says:

    Thanks for this, Tom.

    I love Anne Laurie’s posts on general, but I did think her post on MMT was misleading and uninformative.

    Your post rectifies that.

    I still want Bernie to get out of the primary now, I mean right now. He’s too old, too dogmatic, and he is getting in the way. He did some good, but now he is doing harm. Go away.

    However, MMT is a different issue. As part of a general revolt against Austerity-Think and deficit-scolds, I think it is a step in the right direction.

  30. 30
    JPL says:

    @Gvg: I hope that can be fixed. A friend bought into that theory and I asked her what she wanted to cut. The three options are Social Security, Medicare and the Military. She gulped.

  31. 31
    Yarrow says:

    My preferred outcome is for his campaign to continue its downward drift and eventually he drifts into irrelevance. He can have a token speaking slot on an early day at the convention as a consolation prize.

  32. 32
    different-church-lady says:

    Hey, you know what? Fuck that dude anyway.

  33. 33
    Xavier Onassis says:

    “The underlying question now is: can the US afford major social programs and significant investment in physical and social capital that will take years to mature?”

    MMT’s main point is that we can “afford” anything if labor, materials, infrastructure, and technical knowhow exist to make it happen. Money is never a constraint, you can print money. Political will could be a constraint. And price pressures in certain areas will likely be an issue if there is significant competition for the labor, materials, or infrastructure that are available.

  34. 34
    Michael Cain says:

    The argument that is/will be made against the healthcare spending makes the assumption that it’s all new spending. Care providers are going to get paid roughly what they are now, but instead of directing the money to them through employers and insurance companies, Bernie would direct it through the government (and possibly insurance companies depending on which of the several universal coverage schemes used in other OECD countries his system ends up resembling).

    It’s certainly happened before. Sometime in the last couple of years Colorado had a universal coverage initiative on the ballot. It failed badly. Basically, the opponents screaming “It doubles the size of the state government!” drowned out the reasonable explanation that of course it did, but only because the flow of funds changed, and the new tax was the money that had been premiums before. Only probably smaller because some obvious inefficiencies were going to be removed.

  35. 35
    Jay says:

    A reminder that campus censorship comes from all directions – Iowa community college removes prof for saying he supports Antifa. The firing was rationalized as "commitment to harboring a safe learning environment". @TheFIREorghttps://t.co/BlwJG83BvR— Galway Curiousblue (@iamcuriousblue) August 24, 2019

  36. 36
    NotMax says:

    @Xavier Onassis

    Also ignores or discounts the associated social costs of a tax system subject to wide swings in rates as a feature

  37. 37
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Jay: But you keep saying there is no such thing as Antifa…

  38. 38
    J R in WV says:

    @Jharp:

    I too rank Harris and Warren as the top candidates.

    At first I preferred Harris but Warren has done a better job of interviewing for the job.

    So far.

    I agree completely. Pete Buttigieg is also looking better and better to me.

  39. 39
    Jay says:

    BREAKING: a major expose of the far right “Identitarian” movement has revealed:- ideology which inspired Christchurch terror attack has branches in multiple countries – UK arm has members who serve in the Navy- major splits have emerged within UK branchhttps://t.co/ZEbaShkgLT— HOPE not hate (@hopenothate) August 24, 2019

  40. 40
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷 says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    I believe “Antifa” isn’t some unified organization or group with centralized leadership. They’re similar to the alt-right in that they’re decentralized into many, smaller groups

  41. 41
    Bobbyk says:

    Man the fucking people on this web site. First of all it’s not Senator Sanders fault Hillary lost. That’s on her – 100%. For those of you that want to argue – how many republicans did trump have to beat in the republican primary? To blame 1 Democratic Socialist for Hillary’s failure is ludicrous. And despite Mr. Levenson’s assertion Senator Sanders has a long record of legislative accomplishments Ryu

  42. 42
    Bobbyk says:

    Man the fucking people on this web site. First of all it’s not Senator Sanders fault Hillary lost. That’s on her – 100%. For those of you that want to argue – how many republicans did trump have to beat in the republican primary? To blame 1 Democratic Socialist for Hillary’s failure is ludicrous. And despite Mr. Levenson’s assertion Senator Sanders has a long record of legislative accomplishments

  43. 43
    Raven says:

    @Bobbyk: someone making you come here?

  44. 44
    Jay says:

    Scoop from @svdate – Trump is inflating his Scottish golf resorts’ value by $165 million, possibly violating federal laws that are punishable by jail time https://t.co/mT2nuVFPsc— Amanda Terkel (@aterkel) August 20, 2019

  45. 45
  46. 46
    JPL says:

    Bernie was never all my radar because of his opposition to gun control. If Bobby or Mario whatever his name is doesn’t agree, look at his voting record.

  47. 47
    zhena gogolia says:

    @different-church-lady:

    Ah, someone obviated the need for me to read the post! Thank you!

  48. 48
    zhena gogolia says:

    @Bobbyk:

    Those other Republicans fell right into line and didn’t boo Trump throughout his convention.

  49. 49
    JPL says:

    @Raven: OT Did you have stormy weather? I had tremendous winds roar through, but no rain.

  50. 50
    Jay says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Guy get’s fired from his job for being anti-facist, and that’s your “hot take”?

    No wonder you guys have Trump.

  51. 51
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @zhena gogolia: That is a rather disappointing response.

  52. 52
    debbie says:

    @Jay:

    Nunes is such a dick.

  53. 53
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Jay: No, that was my response to you. Commenting on this blog is not the only way in which people interact with the world.

  54. 54
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷 says:

    @Bobbyk:

    And despite Mr. Levenson’s assertion Senator Sanders has a long record of legislative accomplishments

    Such as? And voter suppression and Russian meddling also played a role in stealing the 2016 election. So no, it wasn’t entirely on Clinton.

  55. 55
    jl says:

    Thanks for interesting post. I’ll save by blood pressure and not look much at the comments here or in AL’s latest outrage horror post about BS.

    I think the main problem with Modern Monetary Theory is the same as with Austrian Economics, they claim to be scientific and be able to make quantifiable predictions about what will happen tomorrow based on what we do today. But, they cannot seem to write their theories about how that works down on paper. So, whenever you questions their oracular and profound announcements, it ends up as a game of 20, or 40, or 100 questions, and they accuse you of ‘not getting it’ whatever it is they think you should ‘get’. So…. it’s bullshit, really, as a scientific theory of any level or rigor.

    But, you can read quite a few Keynesian or Keynsian-inspired economists who can translate what MMTers are willing to put down on paper, and right now, in the current macroeconomic and international fiance and trade environment, MMT policies just translate into very aggresssive Keynesian fiscial pump priming arguments, and the results from either in terms of short run policy prescriptions amount to about the same things. So, I recommend Krugmn, DeLong, Baker, Stiglitz, Roger Farmer, and you get same thrust of analysis, except they are willing to put verbal and mathematical reasoning down on paper (electronic or otherwise).

    My only quibble with the post is:
    “But also remember that the economics profession is one that skews conservative not just in its politics but in its habits of mind”

    Maybe 30 years ago, but not now. Compared to GOP your standard neoclassical economist of any repute, who have a good record of making predictions, and emprical analyses that hold up, for example, is a raging commie.
    Standard intellectual property economists are quite skeptical of current US IP and patent policies.
    They are very critical of GOP macroeconomic policy, but that is almost a no brainer.

    The GOP trots out academic professors who have some accomplishments in the past. But I challenge you to find one who parrots GOP BS in an area where they made their reputation. Casey Muligan is one example, I think in the Truimpster administration now, who made his reputation in microeconomics, and risk analysis of social insurance policies, where he sounds sane. In macroeconomics, the guy has been almost an inverse prediction machine. During the great recession, I could have made a lot of money by just monitoring when Mulligan said something would happen, and that meant a far over 50 percent chance it would not happen.

    Then of course there is “Dow 35,000” Hassett, and that gook is full of howlers and blunders that would get a person flunked on a grad school macro exam.

    For the record, I supported Sanders in primary in 2016, but then worked for HRC, but wanted Warren to run. Now Warren is running, and right now I think she is by far the best of the lot on policy. Biden and Sanders are both very old and out of date in their thinking, and if they win I’ll support them in the general, but other than that I don’t care what they do.

    I think way too early to second guess the electorate on who is electable.Let’s see what happens when the candidates’ campaigns have to win some elections and caucuses next year. In the meantime, I’m fine with whoever wants to show up at a debate, with a few exceptions (Delaney, Steyer, Gabbard and the guru lady, for example). If they say things that make sense and spread the Democratic message to a wider audience, or if they can use the pres campaign as an audition to win another office from a GOPer, fine with me.

    Vast majority of voters aren’t paying attention yet anyway.

  56. 56
    Jay says:

    It feels relevant today to mention that Koch Industries was founded by David and Charles's father Fred specifically to serve as an oil refinery to the Third Reich, with personal approval from Hitler. Cool company history and a great way to make a fortune!— Becca Lewis (@beccalew) August 23, 2019

  57. 57
    Yarrow says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Have you watched any of the RWC warm up matches? Just finished watching Scotland-France. I’m always a bit behind on watching them.

  58. 58
    Redshift says:

    @Ruckus: Yeah, this is the problem I have had since 2015. I agree with many of the ideas of the Sanders campaign (s) as goals and messaging (Medicare for All, reining in corporations, more social services, etc.) but it always turns to “we have decided the exact perfect form (immediate single payer at the national level, for example) and anyone who disagrees in the slightest is a sellout.

    That’s not how government ever works; my way or the highway will only end in failure. It doesn’t help that this isn’t theoretical; part of the reason for his thin record in the House and Senate, reportedly, is that there were instances where he insisted on his way and wouldn’t negotiate with prospective allies.

  59. 59
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Yarrow: I’ve recorded some but haven’t watched anything yet.

  60. 60
    Ruckus says:

    @Yarrow:
    Consolation prize? Since when is this 3rd grade? In my opinion his consolation prize can be that he walks away. He’s been in congress 28 yrs and has accomplished what? He’s now run for president twice as a democrat and isn’t one. He’s not worth it the effort it would take to tell him to fuck off. Give him a soundproof booth and a megaphone and let him scream at himself all he wants.

  61. 61
    Chyron HR says:

    @Bobbyk:

    I bet it must really frost your mini-wheats to see Trump claiming to be the Chosen One when he never even had a bird land on his podium.

  62. 62
    jl says:

    @Michael Cain: I agree. I think too many people in Dem party are willing to go along with bogus talking points in order to score a quick win. Better to challenge the BS arguments that are often made against good reforms.

    Thing is the same bogus double counting attack is going to come out against any health care reform. it will be leveled at plans to improve the PPACA, at any and all versions of Medicare for All (public option, buy-in, gradual, sudden, mild moderate and radical versions). American Hospital Association is already running ads attacking any and all Medicare for All reforms with similar bogus arguments. Dem candidates should understand they are harming chances for their own plans when they make bogus GOP and corporatist attacks against other plans. Come correct with valid arguments, or STFU.

  63. 63
    Yarrow says:

    @jl:

    If they say things that make sense and spread the Democratic message to a wider audience, or if they can use the pres campaign as an audition to win another office from a GOPer, fine with me.

    Same here. I haven’t really had a problem with the large number of Dems who have thrown their hats into the ring. Shows we have a deep bench, diversity of people, styles, and strategies with pretty much the same goals. It’s early so that’s all good. Get the Dem message out there, get some name recognition, run for another office or campaign for the eventual nominee. I don’t see a lot of downside to it.

  64. 64
    Chyron HR says:

    @Bobbyk:

    Also, too, shouldn’t at least one of you goons try explaining to the Bernssiah that the actual reason he lost the 2016 Democratic primary was because he hates Democrats? Is that not perhaps information he should be made aware of if he really intends to win in 2020?

  65. 65
    Jay says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Your trolling is weak Paduan.

  66. 66
    zhena gogolia says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    I have zero interest in Bernie Sanders in any way, shape, or form.

  67. 67
    Yarrow says:

    @Ruckus: Oh, well, that would be my preferred result. But given his massive ego it would be more trouble than it’s worth not to let him speak.

  68. 68
    jl says:

    @Chyron HR: ” I bet it must really frost your mini-wheats to see Trump claiming to be the Chosen One when he never even had a bird land on his podium. ”

    A bald eagle tried to take a big chunk out of Trump when he was filming some dumbass campaign spot. Well, at least the eagle tried.

  69. 69
    Jay says:

    Tusk starts out by saying that at the last G7 summit Trump was trying to justify Russia's annexation of Crimea to the gathered leaders.Let that sink in. https://t.co/8LyvMeeagX— Paul Niland (@PaulNiland) August 24, 2019

  70. 70
    Yarrow says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Getting kind of excited for the RWC. One of my neighbors is going to Japan for it. Has had his tickets for months.

  71. 71
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @JPL:

    but I worry about her trade policies. They appear to be a restrictive as trump’s if not more so.

    I feel perhaps I’m replying to your comment on this for a second time, so I’ll be succinct: this argument would require some substantiation. (1) the Ricardian argument that “opening one’s markets to trade always improves your outcome”, has assumptions, like lack of capital mobility, etc; (2) Ralph Gomory did some work on showing that even assuming Ricardo’s argument, things aren’t rosy — as the trading partner’s size gets closer and closer to your own, you gain less and less; (3) China has SIGNIFICANT rules on foreign investment which amount to rape-and-pillage of the intellectual property of foreign firms. And that IP goes direct to Chinese state-owned firms. We as citizens pay the taxes that produce the innovation that these firms then have to just give away to Chinese firms, as a price of market entry.

    Sure, Shitler is a nut and hasn’t got a clue how to manage our trade policy. But that doesn’t mean that our previous “open kimono” policy was wise.

  72. 72
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷 says:

    @jl:

    But I challenge you to find one who parrots GOP BS in an area where they made their reputation.

    I think its so silly when people try to make claims outside of their areas of expertise. The same with Ben Carson. He spent several years studying to become a neurosurgeon and worked as one for several more so he thinks that qualifies him as an expert on climate change for example

  73. 73
    Jay says:

    the Russian origins of the Seth Rich conspiracy theory https://t.co/CpxPOTj7nH— Anne Applebaum (@anneapplebaum) August 24, 2019

  74. 74
    Yarrow says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷: He’s also an expert on the Egyptian pyramids.

  75. 75
    jl says:

    And I have to say, a tweet that claims to give an economic budget analysis (yeah, I look at AL’s post) and screams ‘how ya gonna pay’ is a bogus GOP and corporatist argument. And any Dem or Dem operative who thinks the same stuff won’t be used against whatever they propose is just short sighted or deranged from monomaniacal focus on short run campaign tactics.

    I’d like to see good analysis of how much money is frittered away on corporate subsidies, tax breaks, and other crony corporate welfare. Put that immense sum against any Democratic candidates proposals, I’d like to see how it balances out.

  76. 76
    Ruckus says:

    @Redshift:
    That’s why I use his initals, BS. Because that’s all he is. The thing he isn’t is a republican. But he’s no different than they are, has his ideas and no compromise with anyone for any other way. Gee thinking about where we are today with shit for brains in charge. Experience has shown that a narcissist with an ego the size of Greenland doesn’t make a good national leader. Why the hell would we want another one?

  77. 77
    Jay says:

    @Chetan Murthy:

    Warren’s trade policies being “restrictive” has been debunked many times, and is nothing more than a talking point aimed at influencing low information people.

    Anytime you see such a short throw away, you are not dealing with a good faith actor.

  78. 78
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷 says:

    @Yarrow:
    Hah! He said they were fucking grain silos or something, right? God, that feels like millions of years ago now

  79. 79
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @Jay: Ehhh, I don’t think of @JPL as a bad-faith commenter. So I’d be happy to hear their argument.

  80. 80
    Jay says:

    @jl:

    The Pentagon,
    Wars,
    Army,
    Navy,
    Marines,
    Air Force,
    Space Force,
    Nukes,
    Weapons,
    Weapons Research,
    Corporate Subsidies,
    LEO’s,
    Massive Incarceration Industry,
    CBD/ICE $775 a night Concentration Camps for refigees,

    Things no American asks “how are we going to pay for that”?

  81. 81
    Ruckus says:

    @Yarrow:
    He can speak anytime he wants. We have a press that writes whatever it wants, although now there is always a charge for reading it. But he’s not a democrat and him speaking at the convention after he loses the primary is just one more chance for him to piss in the punchbowl. He’s had a very mediocre congressional career and if the polling is any indication he’s not going to come close this time around. He ran as a dem, I don’t care if he gets to attend the convention but unless it is a close race that he could win at the convention he shouldn’t get to speak.

  82. 82
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Bobbyk: First of all it’s not Senator Sanders fault Hillary lost.

    Certainly not all his fault, but in part. And his obnoxious personality makes that part seem larger, probably.

    Also, I love your precious insistence on “Senator Sanders”. And even “Mr Levinson”. But… “Hillary”.

    No tell there, bro.

  83. 83
    jl says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷: There are certainly people who have the intellectual ability to master several, sometimes disparate, fields of expertise. But you have to realize you can’t just ride on expertise in an existing field, you have to prove yourself up in the new one, show you know THAT NEW field.

    I think even rarer than intellectual ability is the emotional maturity and temperament needed to realize that you need to pay your dues somehow in the new field, not just ride on your reputation in other fields. That kind of emotional maturity is extremely rare.

    I think Krugman is 100 percent right on this topic. Look at the economists that GOPers have put as public spokesmen, they are all folks who have a record of sub par performance in whatever field the GOP chooses them to front for. That says something about the GOP, and also about the GOP economists that are chosen to be public spokespeople for their insane policies (well, insane for anything except shoving money down rich peoples’ throats).

  84. 84
    Fair Economist says:

    @Chetan Murthy:

    I feel perhaps I’m replying to your comment on this for a second time, so I’ll be succinct: this argument would require some substantiation. (1) the Ricardian argument that “opening one’s markets to trade always improves your outcome”, has assumptions, like lack of capital mobility, etc; (2) Ralph Gomory did some work on showing that even assuming Ricardo’s argument, things aren’t rosy — as the trading partner’s size gets closer and closer to your own, you gain less and less;

    Don’t forget, even though it is almost universally ignored, that the shifts in income within a country due to liberalizing trade are several times the net benefit. The Ricardo case assumes these shifts can be compensated for, but in actual practice they never are, and given that there are inevitably large frictions in the tax-and-subsidize systems that would be needed, possibly *cannot* really be compensated for in reality.

    Given that real-world people are risk-averse (losses hurt more than gains comfort) liberalizing trade is probably a net welfare loss in many circumstances, because the losers (say, manufacturing workers) suffer more than the beneficiaries (say, investors) enjoy.

  85. 85
    Ruckus says:

    @Ruckus:
    I think a lot of people who support BS probably do because they don’t feel they fit in either of the two parties and as we know, 3rd parties don’t get a lot of traction here, we just aren’t set up for it. Most of them seem to be so far to the left that they can’t compromise on any issue and because they never get to actually be in power they have no idea what it takes to make things work on a governmental level. They like that there are few details to any of BS’s ideas, they want the ideas, don’t really care how they get accomplished.

  86. 86
    Jay says:

    @Chetan Murthy:

    Warren’s published her Trade Plan,

    Somebody tossing out a throw away, rather than specific issues is either just repeating a throw away they heard/read/got facebooked,

    Or is not acting in good faith.

    It’s not hard to find actual information these days.

  87. 87
    Raven says:

    @JPL: Not so far

  88. 88
    Jay says:

    thinking about how mocking “save the rainforest” people was the edgiest 1990s joke you could make and speculating as to what cultural mechanisms made earnestly caring about things the biggest crime of my generation. Anyway we’re all gonna die https://t.co/rZBZdAObo9— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) August 23, 2019

  89. 89
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Ruckus: I think a lot of people who support BS probably do because they don’t feel they fit in either of the two parties and as we know,

    I think people support BS because of affect. Like trump, he dumbs down politics, like trump, he comes across as a “fighter”

  90. 90
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @Fair Economist: Right, this is important too, and IIRC the work of Autor et. al. was pivotal in pointing this out to other economists. But I was setting that aside, and just focusing on the overall impact on a nation’s economy., because it’s the simplest case for the “laissez faire trade uber alles” crowd.

    I mean ….. sheeite, we can go further: the ease with which Chinese fentanyl can get into the US ought to be enough to cause a massive crackdown. Somehow if I drive a truck with heroin across the border, I’m an accessory, but if Fedex flies it here in one of their planes, they’re NOT? How does that work?

    So many idiocies in the way we treat China. But simplest is just to force proponents to actually make their damn argument.

    Once upon a time it was common wisdom that high wages forced businesses to innovate and save on labor — thus increasing productivity. Today, the wisdom is “just use hands in Shenzen”. Feh.

  91. 91
    Jay says:

    Check out this bullshit. Apparently, we’re crowdfunding jails now. @CitationsPod @adamjohnsonNYC @WideAsleepNima pic.twitter.com/uaGOxGHgZ0— Tyler A. (@Tyler_Eyyy) August 24, 2019

  92. 92
    Jay says:

    @Chetan Murthy:

    And of course, all of our Western Economies were built on IP theft, looting others, subsidies and protectionism. That’s how we got here.

    So what were useful tools to build an economy, should in careful measure also be tools to protect an economy.

    Until the 1980’s here, it was illegal to export raw logs, ( other than certain exceptions). Now, the mills are closing for a lack of timber while raw log exports are reaching new records.

  93. 93
    Baud says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    Certainly not all his fault, but in part.

    And he’s the only part running in our primary.

  94. 94
  95. 95
    JPL says:

    @Chetan Murthy: Obama fought for the same labor rights the Warren wants which I definitely agree with. The concern had to do with currency manipulation and the dollar hurting our allies. The article that I read showed the effect on Germany. I’ll try to hunt it down tomorrow.

    Definitely OT but I’m watching Guess who’s coming to dinner. I forgot that they had known each other for a short time, but in defense that was fifty plus years ago.

  96. 96

    @ 🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) 🗳🌷;
    For Ben Carson, I have doubts of him even within his area of ‘expertise.’ As a pediatric neurosurgeon according to reports, the number of his patients still alive are *drumroll* zero.

  97. 97
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @Jay:

    So what were useful tools to build an economy, should in careful measure also be tools to protect an economy.

    100% agreed. Sure, we did despicable things to get where we are. And we should be more decent now. But allowing others to do despicable things to us now …. that’s just -stupid-.

  98. 98
    Yarrow says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    I think people support BS because of affect. Like trump, he dumbs down politics, like trump, he comes across as a “fighter”

    I know one of these personally. Smart person but very busy with family, work, and other obligations so isn’t able to follow news and politics too closely. Reliable Dem voter. Supports BS “because he can stand up to Trump.” Seriously.

  99. 99
    JPL says:

    @Raven: I assume you heard about East Lake and the fedex cup tournament.

  100. 100
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @JPL:

    The article that I read showed the effect on Germany.

    Last time I responded to someone (you?) about Warren & trade policy, my searches found lots of stuff on her position re: China, but nothing about Germany. If your issue is about the level of the dollar, I think that that’s pretty orthogonal to trade policy, in the sense that (for me) the issue in trade policy isn’t whether we run a deficit or not — the issue is whether we’re exporting our ability to be productive, period.

  101. 101
    zhena gogolia says:

    OT, but luckily YouTube is back to normal.

  102. 102
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @Chetan Murthy: I rememtber something at Delong’s place recently about The Netherlands in the 18th century (? maybe got that wrong) and how it was a wealthy place. But some massive percentage all the invested monies were invested in ….. (wait for it) …. Britain! So heh, the Dutch were investing in making the Brits a wealthy nation. And sure, that’s great, if you think that that’s a great goal. But I don’t think it’s a great goal to empower one of our two greatest geopolitical competitors, esp. when they use massive non-tariff barriers to furher tilt the playing-field.

  103. 103
    Jay says:

    @Chetan Murthy:

    Tulips,
    Investing in Britain,
    Dutch Disease,

  104. 104
    JPL says:

    @Chetan Murthy: Don’t forget that many countries have factories here that produce their goods.

    OT Guess who’s coming to dinner is almost better fifty plus years later. As a mom I’d harp on the short time they new each other and the age difference. Okay maybe not the age difference cuz DIL who I love is nine years younger.

  105. 105
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @JPL:

    Don’t forget that many countries have factories here that produce their goods.

    I would not be surprised to find that China has explicit policies to discourage Chinese companies from setting up significant manufacturing plants in the US. As opposed to research labs — that’s a great way of draining IP back to the mother country.

    N.B. Unlike Japan and lots of our other trading partners.

  106. 106
    Mike J says:

    There may be something to MMT, but if there is, Bernie and his cultists know as much about it as libertarians know about conventional economic theory.

  107. 107
    Jay says:

    Hey look iron front logo on national TV. And nothing happened except that we told nazis they aren't welcome here pic.twitter.com/LJdlRYP72S— Emily Cummings (@emilyrcummings) August 24, 2019

  108. 108
    Jay says:

    I talked to @BuzzFeedNews for this disturbing story about internal sharing of white nationalist content within the DOJ. This continues a long tradition of white supremacy within U.S. government agencies, and it is the millionth example that racist ideologies are in no way fringe https://t.co/69fsZxBrJA— Becca Lewis (@beccalew) August 23, 2019

  109. 109
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @Chris T.: @Mike J:

    Nobody will say what it [MMT] is.

    This isn’t quite fair. I don’t read Stephanie Kelton. But I -do- read Brad Delong, and he’s been quite clear about his (qualified) support for MMT, and how it’s mostly just standard econ. He’s cited Abba Lerner (as does Kelton) and “functional finance” too.

    BTW, Delong is as mainstream as it gets. Mainstream enough that he gets called a neoliberal from time-to-time.

  110. 110
    Jay says:

    @Chetan Murthy:

    There’s a huge difference between partners, and somebody you trade with.

  111. 111
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @Jay: It is why, for instance, I have no problem with opening trade with India (besides that I was born there, which I can set aside, b/c I’m a patriot): there’s no evidence whatsoever that India wants to become a geopolitical competitor of the US.

  112. 112
    waratah says:

    I always thought that the President would would present his plans to congress knowing they are the ones that would actually write the bills and pass them. I keep that in mind when I read these plans. They should at least keep in mind what will or will not pass. I am hoping we will have the majority in the House and the Senate. If we do even in our own party we have to get moderates and progressives to agree.

  113. 113
    eldorado says:

    MMT’s main point is that we can “afford” anything if labor, materials, infrastructure, and technical knowhow exist to make it happen. Money is never a constraint, you can print money.

    this is the important part. the goverment can just print money.

    we can argue about the consequences of that after the overton window gets shifted.
    and all the beefs with sanders are just noise, as mmt has nothing to do with him.

  114. 114
    TS (the original) says:

    @jl: Krugman – only person worth reading in the NYT – amazing he is still there given the truth he tells about republicans & their insane economics.

  115. 115
    smintheus says:

    There’s even more deception in that tweet. The 100T figure is just *household* wealth (and it’s more like 113T), not total American wealth as the guy claims. There’s a lot of wealth owned by corporations and other collective bodies/institutions that is not included in this measure of mere household wealth.

  116. 116
    Chyron HR says:

    @eldorado:

    “The government can just do X, and we can worry about the consequences later.”

    Yeah, that’s worked out great for the last three years.

  117. 117

    Right wing magical thinking: Cutting taxes will increase revenues
    Left wing purity Pony magical thinking: We can print money, increase the supply of money and there will be no inflation.
    Meanwhile Putin grins in his lair, watching his stooges fool the gullible with their magical thinking.

  118. 118

    Even if the math adds up, which I am not sure that it does. I have no faith in BS to implement this ambitious agenda, judging from the clown show running his campaign, picking random fights on Twitter with those who do not sufficiently believe in the left wing Messiah.

  119. 119
    Libraryguy says:

    I remember Krugman arguing ten years ago that there was excess financial, labor, and infrastructure space in the economy such that deficit spending for, say, universal broadband / non-collapsing bridges / repaired transit / clear water systems / wind and solar installations wouldn’t cause dangerous inflation for a long time. This would have (and still could) reenergize the U.S. Economy and make it more stable at the same time.

    He also argued that the same actions should have been taken re: Greece, Spsin, Italy, etc. By the EU preempt the rise of right-wing political movements.

    The man’s a freaking prophet.

  120. 120
    J R in WV says:

    @Jay:

    It feels relevant today to mention that Koch Industries was founded by David and Charles’s father Fred specifically to serve as an oil refinery to the Third Reich, with personal approval from Hitler. Cool company history and a great way to make a fortune!— Becca Lewis (@beccalew) August 23, 2019

    I’m not sure whether Fred Koch helped build a petroleum industry for Mr. Hitler’s Third Reich, but I am certain he did so for Stalin’s Soviet Russia. And then Stalin confiscated that indistrial complex, and in retaliation Fred Koch helped found the John Birch Society. For which we are still suffering.

    Thanks, Fred.

  121. 121
    David 🎅🎄Merry Christmas🎄🎅 Koch says:

    Stunning news: Indy Colt Andrew Luck retires at age 29

    Fantasy leagues are in kaos.

  122. 122
    cliosfanboy says:

    @jl: dear eagle. You had ONE job, just one….

  123. 123
    eldorado says:

    @Chyron HR: so, you agree. the u.s. government can just print money without collecting dollar one in taxes. is that correctly stating your position?

  124. 124
    Bupalos says:

    Yeah as much as I too want nothing to do with Bernie, that post that this one is in response to was one of the worst front page things I’ve ever seen on here.

    Some folks here need to channel their Bernie hate into more productive channels, attacking what is essentially the core progressive agenda in terms fox and wsj would be proud of just because your boogeyman is attached to them is ignorant and stupid.

  125. 125
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @Yarrow: I was at the Scotland-France match. Sort of… I was working as a steward at Murrayfield stadium, I heard the crowd but didn’t actually see any of the action on the field.

    Scotland’s standard of rugby is very inconsistent at the moment, on their best days they can tame the world’s finest teams (drawing with England in the Six Nations grudge match, for example) but when it goes wrong for them and they forget to how actually play rugby during the eighty minutes when it counts it generally goes badly wrong. We still love them.

  126. 126

    @Jharp: warren and harris both take corporate $. when warren picks up the phone and her corporate donor threatens her reelection effort how do you think she’ll respond? the stupidity is intolerable.

  127. 127

    @JPL: you mean like nafta? and tpp? the policies that removed american manufacturing jobs to 3rd world countries? those trade policies? how about wealth inequality and extreme poverty in your own country?

  128. 128
    Miss Bianca says:

    @Michael Cain:

    The universal coverage plan in Colorado failed for all kinds of reasons. Not just the “increase the size of government!11!” part, altho’ that was a biggie. It was pretty badly thought out, IMHO – and I say that as one of the 20% who actually voted for it.

  129. 129
    different-church-lady says:

    @Bupalos:

    attacking what is essentially the core progressive agenda in terms fox and wsj would be proud of

    That’s pretty much exactly what Bernie did to the Democratic Party in 2016, no?

  130. 130

    obama took the center. his treasury was straight out of wall st. then he pushed hard for “wall st” hillary. america is not nominating a moderate democrat this time. warren
    takes corporate donations; she has to. not from wall st, just from the corporate lawyers that represent them when they misuse your $. after she gets the nomination, she’ll take even more money from corporations. the wealthy are working hard to defeat only one candidate. be smart for once in your life.

  131. 131

    @ different-church-lady;
    One-Note Wilmer definitely did that. The Freshmen(Freshwomen?) Squad does more to advance progressive values in one term than he did.

  132. 132
    Ronald Sonntag says:

    Would enjoy hearing what you have against Bernie. Out of the current field, no other candidate has the consistent track record of holding to progressive principals, the willingness to reach out to find common ground or the sheer honesty and integrity. Kamala, for example, is a corporatist and a manipulative liar. Give me some specifics on your objections ro Bernie and please back them up with comparisons to the track records of the other candidates.

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