In this episode, Jason Hartman focuses on his favorite four-letter word, debt. He gives us some background into George Graeber’s book Debt: The First 5,000 Years. Jason relates the history of debt into today’s world and how we can benefit as real estate investors.

Investor 0:00
Well, I like real estate just because I like the benefit of being able to have a mortgage pay off real estate over time so that when I retire, I have something I like the fact that it’s boring. I want to be able to be entertained and travel and do a lot of things in my retirement. And that boring investment of real estate allows me to do that.

Announcer 0:25
Welcome to the creating wealth show with Jason Hartman. You’re about to learn a new slant on investing some exciting techniques and fresh new approaches to the world’s most historically proven asset class that will enable you to create more wealth and freedom than you ever thought possible. Jason is a genuine self made multi millionaire who’s actually been there and done it. He’s a successful investor, lender, developer and entrepreneur who’s owned properties in 11 states had hundreds of tenants and been involved in thousands of real estate transactions, this probe We’ll help you follow in Jason’s footsteps on the road to your financial independence day. You really can do it on Now, here’s your host, Jason Hartman with the complete solution for real estate investors.

Jason Hartman 1:16
Welcome listeners from around the world. This is your host, Jason Hartman. And thank you for joining me for Episode 1037 1037. lots to talk about today. lots to talk about today. So I want to talk about my favorite four letter word. Yes, my favorite four letter word. You know what that is, don’t you? It’s debt, D EBT. Debt, my favorite four letter word. And I just finished the awesome book that I am recommending highly to you. And I want to play a few clips from it today and comment on them. I want you to get this book. It’s entitled debt the first 5000 years. It’s fascinating. Really, really interesting stuff. Really interesting stuff. And as we are talking about debt on this episode today, and you know, it’s probably good to talk about banks, because banks are very much related to debt, my favorite four letter word. And one bank. The I would say definitely the scummiest most disgusting, big bank. Now there’s lots of little scummy disgusting banks in America. But the most scummy disgusting big bank in America right now. They seem to rotate, you know, back during the financial crisis. It was Bank of America, right? They were the disgusting bank. But you know, I don’t know if he could blame them completely because they, for whatever reason, took over countrywide, the disgusting, crooked lender countrywide, that engaged in all sorts of predatory lending, and did all kinds of bad stuff. You know, they were the king of the lions. loans, the ninja loans, the no income, no job. It was unbelievable what happened. Now when we listened to a few clips today, a few clips that I’ve handpicked just for you, my dear listeners, you will see how the whole picture comes together. And I’ve talked about it before. But you know what, when you listen to an academic, see academics definitely have their place because I am not one. And they just put it all together in a really nice way. So you hear him, I would guess from listening to David graeber here. Well, he didn’t narrate the book. But from listening to his book, I listened to that crossing the world crossing the Atlantic and I finished it just the other day. In listening to him. I’m gonna just guess that he is a left wing liberal, right? So don’t say that I’m not open minded. I never want to see any more of these. Jason isn’t open minded type things. I listen to people from every side of the political spectrum. And I disagree with a lot of those people on my libertarian side of the political spectrum. Okay, I disagree with a lot of them. I think a lot of them are just far out idealistic, frankly, nut jobs. Okay. I mean, you know, I like a little bit of government. Okay. little bits. All right. Too much a little bit, though. But hey, before we get into the book, so the most disgusting bank in America right now, it was B of A Bank of America. Right? And then what was it after that? It was Chase, JPMorgan Chase, with their disgusting Robo signing scandal. You know, you’ve remember that it was all over the news years ago, during the financial crisis where they had one person, just one right in the entire country. to basically Robo sign foreclosures, I was a victim of this they dual tracked me dual tracking is illegal I think in most states if not, maybe all states hopefully now, dual tracking when someone’s applying for a loan mod you cannot be foreclosing at the same time, you got to keep your cards on the table and let us all know what you’re doing so we know how to play the game. Dual tracking is something that chase did and many of the other banks engaged in that they Robo signed, and millions of people lost homes, because there was one person in the entire country and remember when they did the math, they can’t remember Forgive me. These are not exact numbers. So don’t hold me to it, but the concept is the same. They figured if this person worked like 60 or 70 hours a week this one person that was Robo signing, all the chase loans for foreclosure, they would take like what seven seconds file to review it and sign off and say, foreclose, foreclose, foreclose foreclose. Just folks. Yeah, can’t make this stuff up. It’s too unbelievable to be true. So first we had B of A then we had Chase. Hey, what’s the other big one? The disgusting criminals at Wells Fargo? Well, they were only in the news twice last week for their disgusting behavior. The latest story is hundreds of people lost their homes because Wells Fargo had a computer glitch. Yes, this mistake contributed to hundreds of foreclosures. That shouldn’t have happened because Wells Fargo had a computer glitch that disgusting criminals at Wells Fargo. So it says Wells Fargo says a company mistake contributed to hundreds of foreclosures because it miscalculated customers eligibility for mortgage modifications for the Associated Press. The bank said in a filing Friday that the year caused about 625 customers to be denied or not offered loan modifications they otherwise qualified for foreclosures were completed in about 400 of those cases. So 400 people lost their homes because of Wells Fargo’s computer glitch. Now, if Wells Fargo didn’t have enough problems, it’s literally like a scandal a week with Wells Fargo these disgusting criminals because there’s another article I didn’t even talk to you about yet. And here it is. Our listener Christina posted it in the the content group here. It says Wells Fargo to pay $2.09 billion. That’s billion with a B to end a US mortgage probe. Okay, so you know, this is 10 years after faulty mortgages. Up ended the global financial system Wells Fargo and company agreed to pay out round it off, hey, what’s 100 million dollars between friends $2.1 billion to settle the US probe into its creation and sale of loans that contributed to the disaster. Okay. Now, here’s the sad thing about the way we do corporations in america, right? no actual person in the company suffers in any real way. When this kind of stuff happens, you know, who really actually suffers the shareholders. Now granted most of the fat cats in the C suite on the board of directors, their shareholders to right, but really, the regular common everyday shareholders are the ones who pay for these disgusting things. And of course, nobody goes to jail when these criminals engage in this crap. I mean, it just really upsets me. It really upsets me. Okay, so let’s get to a couple clips from this book. You’re going to love it. You got to go out and get this book. Get the first 5000 years David Graber it’s a really good remember, as I have talked over the years, about that rather famous article, and I believe it appeared in of all places Rolling Stone magazine. I know that’s kind of an odd place. I just remember this article years ago, it was sort of a well known, heavily talked about passed around article about the way the banking system and the way the investment banks like the disgusting folks at Goldman Sachs, the way they basically create what they call the giant bubble machine. Right. And this is a whole collusion between all the power the highest powers of the financial system, the Federal Reserve, the other central banks around the world besides the Federal Reserve, the big Wall Street banks, the whole mortgage system, the appraisers, the lenders, the fact that just nobody had any incentive to put the brakes on anything, right? And it is different this time. Okay, famous last words of every investor this time it’s different, right? But it really is different because you know, this time around, if we’re going to have another economic crisis, it’s not going to be a big mortgage crisis, at least not yet. Now, it might be say things get really liberal and the pendulum swings too far the other way, you know, the lenders get nuts again, doing the ninja loans doing the liar’s loans. If that happens, then hey, it could be led by a mortgage crisis, but based on where we have been over the past decade, I say that is highly unlikely under the current circumstances, but there are other things right. So this concept is that the banks and the powers that be inflate asset prices in every cycle, in every economic cycle, Then all of the little people that say You and I, I mean, some of us listening aren’t that little, but most people are just the normal little everyday people, right? Not the super fat cats. And we go in and buy up the assets and help that climb occur right into the market peak, we help that happen, right? And the least informed people are the last in, and the most informed people are the first in and who are the least informed and the most informed? Well, the most informed are the Wall Street bankers and the central bankers, right. They are the most well informed of all and why are they so well informed? Well,

Jason Hartman 11:45
largely because they’re not just informed. They’re making it happen. They’re the ones managing the puppet strings that run the system. They’re the ones running the puppets and the puppet show. And so what they do is they inflate Those prices as the curve goes up, and all of the least informed money, the dumb money comes in at the last minute, and then it sadly has to ride the cycle down. And those people have their credit destroyed. And they have, you know, huge debt, some of its recourse debt, sometimes non recourse debt, of course, what that means is, can the lender come after the borrower and get judgments beyond the value of the asset, mostly in real estate or at least residential real estate with purchase money loans? That’s not refinances. It’s not home equity lines of credit where you’ve pulled cash out, it’s just the purchase money loan, the loan used to buy the property to acquire the asset, pretty much that deal is return the collateral and just give it back and you can walk away and that’s the deal. I want to interrupt this episode briefly. We have something new that you will love. It’s called our property cast. This is essentially a podcast, where instead of having audio, you will have property pro formas Yes, PDF files of property pro formas, just like you see on our website at Jason Hartman calm, simply go to iTunes, or whatever podcast platform you use. And look for the Jason Hartman property cast property cast. Yes, it’s like a podcast with properties. And it’s really, really cool, because you will be able to see performance right on the RSS feed. Now, I have been told we are still experimenting with this a little bit, but I’ve been told and while I’ve personally experienced that, it’s easy. easier to see these if you are using an iPhone or an iPad to access our podcast through iTunes, but it can also be done through PCs and androids. We’re working to refine this a little bit, but check it out. It’s brand new. And you can see property performance as they become available on the Jason Hartman property cast. So please be sure to subscribe rate and review that I’ll say in air quotes show. It’s not a show in the traditional sense. There’s no audio. It’s simply property performers. Yes, I discovered something totally new and innovative, that you could actually put a PDF file in an RSS feed for a podcast. So there you go, the Jason Hartman property cast. So this book is quite interesting as It examines 5000 years of debt, and how it’s been managed throughout history in virtually every society on earth fascinating. Let’s listen to him for a moment. Debt,

George Graeber 15:05
the first 5000 years by David graeber, narrated by Grover gardener. Chapter One, on the experience of moral confusion. That no one a sum of money owed to the state of owing money. Three, a feeling of gratitude for a favor or service, Oxford English Dictionary. If you owe the bank $100,000 the bank owns you. If you owe the bank 100 million dollars, you own the bank, American proverb. Two years ago by a series of strange coincidences, I found myself attending the garden party at Westminster Abbey, I was a bit uncomfortable. It’s not that other guests were unpleasant and amicable. And Father Graham who would organize the party was nothing if not a gracious and charming host. But I felt more than a little out of place that one point font the gram intervene, saying that there was someone by a nearby fountain whom I would certainly want to meet She turned out to be a trim well appointed young woman who he explained was an attorney. But more of the activist kind. She works for a foundation that provides legal support for anti poverty groups in London, you will probably have a lot to talk about. We chatted, she told me about her job. I told her I’d been involved for many years with the global justice movement, anti globalization movement, as it was usually called in the media. She was curious. She, of course, read a lot about Seattle, Genoa, the tear gas and street battles. But well, had we really accomplished anything by all of that. Actually, I said, I think it’s kind of amazing how much we did manage to accomplish in those first couple of years. For example, well, for example, we managed to almost completely destroy the IMF. As it happened, she didn’t actually know what the IMF was. So I offered that the International Monetary Fund basically acted as the world’s debt enforcers, you might say the high finance equivalent of the guys who come to break your legs. I launched into historical background explaining how, during the 70s oil crisis OPEC countries ended up pouring so much of their You found riches into Western banks that the banks couldn’t figure out where to invest the money.

Jason Hartman 17:04
How Citibank and chase therefore began sending agents around the world trying to convince Third World dictators and politicians to take out loans. Make sure you see that documentary that I’ve told you about before called life in debt, life in debt. It’s all about Jamaica. And the way the IMF basically just pillaged the country. I mean, it’s it’s terrible, right. And I’ve been to Jamaica a couple times. And it’s, it’s pretty sad place. But yeah,

George Graeber 17:31
let’s keep listening. At the time this was called they’ll go banking. How they started out at extremely low rates of interest that almost immediately skyrocketed 20% or so due to tight us money policies in the early 80s.

Jason Hartman 17:42
Does that sound like teaser rates on adjustable rate mortgages? Hmm, same concept.

George Graeber 17:48
How during the 80s and 90s. This led to the third world debt crisis. How the IMF then stepped in to insist that in order to obtain refinancing for countries would be obliged to abandon price support some basic foodstuffs Or even policies of keeping the strategic food reserves and abandoned free health care and free education. how all of this had led to the collapse of all the most basic supports for some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on earth. I spoke of poverty, the looting of public resources, the collapse of societies, endemic violence, malnutrition, hopelessness and broken lives. But what was your position? The lawyer asked about the IMF, we wanted to abolish it. No, I mean, about the Third World debt. Oh, we wanted to abolish that to the immediate demand was to stop the IMF from imposing structural adjustment policies which were doing all the direct damage, but we managed to accomplish that surprisingly quickly. The more long term aim was debt amnesty, something along the lines of the biblical Jubilee. As far as we were concerned, I told her 30 years of money flowing from the poorest countries to the richest was quite enough. But she objected as if this were self evident, they borrowed the money, surely one has to pay one’s debts. It was at this point that I realized that this was going to be a very different sort of conversation than I had originally anticipated.

Jason Hartman 19:00
This is where it gets interesting.

George Graeber 19:03
Where to start? I could have begun by explaining how these loans that originally been taken out by unelected dictators, who placed most of it directly in their Swiss bank accounts, and ask her to contemplate the justice of insisting that the lenders be repaid not by the dictator, or even by his cronies, but by literally taking food from the mouths of hungry children. Or to think about how many of these poor countries that actually already paid back what they borrowed three or four times now, but that through the miracle of compound interest, it still hadn’t made a significant dent in the principle. I could also observe that there was a difference between refinancing loans and demanding that in order to obtain refinancing countries have to follow some orthodox free market economic policy designed in Washington or Zurich that their citizens had never agreed to and never would, and that it was a bit design.

Jason Hartman 19:45
Can you hear the left wing propaganda woven in here, but he’s still Right. I mean, you know, he makes some really good points, but you know, free health care, free education, yes. The Marxist fantasy Okay, let’s

George Graeber 19:58
keep going. I will

Jason Hartman 20:00
stop with my political balancing act, I just want to balance it out a little bit, just want to balance it out.

George Graeber 20:07
Just to insist that countries adopt democratic constitutions, and then also insist that whoever gets elected they have no control over their country’s policies anyway, or that the economic policies imposed by the IMF didn’t even work. But there was a more basic problem, the very assumption that debts have to be repaid. Actually, the remarkable thing about the statement one has to pay one’s debts is that even according to standard economic theory, it isn’t true. A lender is supposed to accept a certain degree of risk. If all loans no matter how idiotic was still retrievable, if there were no bankruptcy laws, for instance, the results would be disastrous. What reason would lenders have not to make a stupid loan? Well, I know that sounds like common sense, I said, but the funny thing is, economically, that’s not how loans are actually supposed to work. Financial institutions are supposed to be ways of directing resources toward profitable investments. If a bank were guaranteed to get its money back, plus interest, no matter what it did, the whole system wouldn’t work. Say I were to walk into the nearest branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland and say, you know, I just got a really great tip on the horses. Thank you could lend me a couple million quid. Obviously, they just laugh at me. But that’s just because they know if my horse didn’t come in, there’d be no way for them to get the money back. But imagine there was some law that said they were guaranteed to get their money back no matter what happens, even if that meant, I don’t know, selling my daughter into slavery or harvesting my organs or something. Well, in that case, why not? Why bother waiting for someone to walk in with a viable plan to set up a laundromat or somesuch? Basically, that’s the situation the IMF created on a global level, which is how you would have all those banks willing to fork over billions of dollars to a bunch of obvious crooks in the first place. I didn’t quite get that far. Because at that point, the drunken financier appeared, having noticed that we were talking about money and began telling funny stories about moral hazard, which somehow before too long, it morphed into a long and not particularly engrossing account of one of his sexual conquests. I drifted off. Still, for several days afterward, that phrase kept resonate In my head, surely one has to pay one’s debts. The reason it’s so powerful is that it’s not actually an economic statement. It’s a moral statement, after all, isn’t paying ones that’s what morality is supposed to be all about giving people what is do them accepting one’s responsibilities, fulfilling one’s obligations to others, just as one would expect them to fulfill their obligations to you. What could be a more obvious example of shirking one’s responsibilities than reneging on a promise or refusing to pay a debt? It was that very apparent self evidence I realized that made the statement so insidious. This was the kind of line that could make terrible things appear utterly bland and unremarkable. This may sound strong, but it’s hard not to feel strongly about such matters once you’ve witnessed the effects I had. for almost two years I lived in the highlands of Madagascar. Shortly before I arrived, there had been an outbreak of malaria. It was a particularly virulent outbreak, because malaria had been wiped out in the highlands, Madagascar many years before, so that after a couple of generations, most people lost their immunity. The problem was It took money to maintain the mosquito eradication programs since there had to be periodic tests to make sure mosquitoes weren’t starting to breed again, and spraying campaigns if it was discovered that they were not a lot of money. But owing to IMF imposed austerity programs, the government had to cut the monitoring program. 10,000 people died. I met young mothers grieving for lost children, one might think it would be hard to make a case that the loss of 10,000 human lives is really justified in order to ensure that Citibank wouldn’t have to cut its losses on one irresponsible loan. That wasn’t particularly important to its balance sheet anyway. But here was a perfectly decent woman, one who worked for a charitable organization though list, who took it as self evident that it was, after all, they owe the money, and surely, one has to pay one’s debts.

George Graeber 23:43
For the next few weeks, that phrase kept coming back at me, why in debt, what makes the concept so strangely powerful. consumer debt is the lifeblood of our economy. All modern nation states are built on deficit spending. That has come to be the central issue of international politics, but nobody seems to know exactly what it is. Or how to think about it. The very fact that we don’t know what that is, the very flexibility of the concept is the basis of its power. If history shows anything, it is that there’s no better way to justify relations founded on violence to make such relations seem moral than by reframing them in the language of debt, above all, because it immediately makes it seem that it’s the victim who’s doing something wrong. mafiosi understand this, so to the commanders of conquering armies. For thousands of years, violent men have been able to tell their victims that those victims owe them something. If nothing else, they owe them their lives a telling phrase, because they haven’t been killed. Nowadays, for example, military aggression is defined as a crime against humanity. And the international courts when they are brought to bear usually demand that aggressors pay compensation. Germany had to pay massive reparations after World War One, and Iraq is still paying Kuwait for Saddam Hussein’s invasion in 1990. Yet the Third World debt, the debt of countries like Madagascar, Bolivia and the Philippines seems to work precisely the other way around. Third World debtor nations are almost dead. sclusively countries that have at one time been attacked and conquered by European countries, often the very countries to whom they now owe money. In 1895, for example, France invaded Madagascar disbanded the government of then green runnable and the third and declared the country a French colony. One of the first things general Guardian he did after pacification, as they like to call it then, was to impose heavy taxes on the Malagasy population, in part so they could reimburse the costs of having been invaded. But also, since French colonies were supposed to be fiscally self supporting to defray the costs of building the railroads, highways, bridges, plantations and so forth, that the French regime wished to build.

Jason Hartman 25:36
That’s a pretty great deal, isn’t it? You invade a country. You can’t this is just how people throughout history and present day can be so evil is just beyond made. You invade a country, you take it over, you enslave its population, and if that weren’t bad enough, you make the money. invaded country pay for the invasion. Wow

George Graeber 26:06
Malagasy taxpayers were never asked whether they wanted these railroads, highways, bridges and plantations are allowed much input into where and how they were built to the contrary, over the next half century, the French army and police slaughtered quite a number of Malagasy, who objected strongly to the arrangement, upwards of half a million by some reports, during one revolt in 1947. It’s not as if Madagascar has ever done any comparable damage to France. Despite this from the beginning, the Malagasy people were told they owed France money. And to this day, the Malagasy people are still held dual France money and the rest of the world accepts the justice of this arrangement. When the international community does perceive a moral issue. It’s usually when they feel the Malagasy government is being slow to pay their debts. But that is not just the victors justice. It can also be a way of punishing winners who weren’t supposed to win. The most spectacular example of this is the history of the Republic of Haiti, the first poor country to be placed in permanent debt peonage Haiti was a nation founded by former plantation slaves, who had the temerity not only to rise up in rebellion in the midst grand declarations of universal rights and freedoms, but to defeat Napoleon’s armies simply return them to bondage. France immediately insisted that the New Republic did 150 million francs in damages for the expropriated plantations, as well as the expenses about fitting the failed military expeditions, and all other nations, including the United States agreed to impose an embargo on the country until it was paid. The sum was intentionally impossible, equivalent to about $18 billion, and the resultant embargo ensured that the name Haiti has been a synonym for debt, poverty and human misery ever since. Sometimes, though, that seems to mean the very opposite. Starting in the 1980s, the United States which insisted on strict terms for the repayment of third world debt, itself, accrued debts that easily bored those are the entire third world combined, mainly fueled by military spending. The US foreign debt though takes the form of treasury bonds held by institutional investors in countries Germany, Japan, South Korea. Taiwan, Thailand, the Gulf states that are in most cases effectively, US military protectorates most covered in US bases, boulevards and equipment paid for with that very deficit spending. This has changed a little now that China has gotten in on the game. China is a special case for reasons that will be explained later, but not very much. Even China finds that the fact that holds so many US Treasury bonds makes it to some degree beholden to US interests, rather than the other way around. So what is the status of all this money continually being funneled into the US Treasury? Are these loans or is it tribute? In the past military powers that maintained hundreds of military bases outside their own home territory, were ordinarily referred to as empires and empires regularly demanded tribute from subject peoples. The US government, of course, insists that it is not an empire. But one could easily make the case that the only reason it insists on treating these payments as loans and not as tribute is precisely to deny the reality of what’s going on. Now, it’s true that throughout history, certain sorts of A bit then certain sorts of debtor have always been treated differently than others. In the 1720s. One of the things that most scandalized the British public when conditions of debtors prisons were exposed in the popular press, was the fact that these prisons were regularly divided into two sections. aristocratic inmates who often thought of a brief stay in fleet door marshals is something of a fashion statement. We’re wined and dined by livery servants and allowed to receive regular visits from prostitutes. On the common side, impoverished debtors were shackled together in tiny cells, covered with filth and vermin, as one report booted and suffered to die without pity of hunger and jail fever.

Jason Hartman 29:37
The part I want to play for you is toward the end of the book, where he talks about the situation that we had from the I think he starts in the 60s and he talks about it pretty interestingly, the 60s in the 70s. And we have this time of in when I’ve had Dan Sullivan on the show a couple times, you might remember those interviews We talked about that a lot. And I’ve just talked about it myself about how prosperous America was, then I mean, the rest of the world. I’m not sure I didn’t keep track of that, that well. But in terms of the US, that was the time where Americans were really getting solid cost of living increases, I mean, in it, you know, these things are so complex, right? You’ve got to peel back the layers of the onions in so many ways at so many levels. But in some ways, if that time, I mean, it was a glory days, in a way you saw government bureaucracies in the us expand like crazy, that was bad. And that’s what happens when you give when you give the kids too much money, okay? It’s just like these tech companies, right? They just have too much money. You know, the markets, the public markets, the venture capitalists are too good to these companies, and they become wasteful and stupid. bid and socialistic and hey, and evil, frankly, look at Google and Facebook, right. And so you get all these abuses. And that’s a terrible thing. And, you know, he goes forward to show how, really for decades, Americans did not receive any real dollar cost of living increase. And the only thing that changed that, by the way, decades later, was Donald Trump. The Trump recovery, I mean, hate him as much as you want. But you cannot argue with the fact that the economy is booming. Now, there are signs of some softening in the high end real estate market, that’s for sure. But that’s kind of a different subject. In terms of the labor component of the economy, wage increases unemployment rates for women, the lowest they’ve been in 65 years for African Americans, the lowest they’ve been ever okay. Since we started keeping track, right, unemployment has dropped sharply. Real dollar wage increases are here. And we’ll see if inflation outpaces them because inflation is rearing its head. I told you it would. And that’s all part of it, you know, too many dollars chasing a limited supply of goods and services, you’re always going to have inflationary pressures. So we’ll monitor how that all plays out. Of course here on the show, we will continue to do it, we will continue to do it. But I’m going along here again, so I better stop. So go get David graeber his book debt the first 5000 years it’s really quite interesting. Maybe I’ll play that little tiny clip toward the end if I can find it. On another episode. also join us for profits in Paradise, our brand new two day conference in Hawaii, Waikiki Beach, first week in November, and then the venture Alliance we got a special deal the only time we’ve ever offered special deal on the venture Alliance only because these two events are stacked up right near each other. One day later, we’ll take a day off for travel in between, and then we’ll go to Hawaii. So go to Jason hartman.com. And check that out. And we will talk to you on the next episode. Happy investing.

Announcer 33:20
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