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Published by: Committee For a Responsible Federal Budget on Sep 28, 2012
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Averting a Fiscal Crisis

Why America Needs Comprehensive Fiscal Reforms Now

Deficit Projections
(Percent of GDP)
1990-2012 Average Deficit: 3.1%

10% 8% 6% 4% 2% 0% -2%

2012-2022 Average Current Policy Deficit: 5.0%

Likely Deficits

Current Law


Note: Estimates based on CBO, Alternative Fiscal Scenario.

Gap Between Revenue and Spending
(Percent of GDP)

Avg. Historical Spending (1972-2011): 21%
24% 22% 20% 18% 16%

Avg. Historical Revenues (1972-2011): 18% 12% 10%

Current Law Spending

Current Law Revenues

AFS Spending

AFS Revenues

Surpluses Turning Into Growing Deficits…
Spending and Revenues (Billions of Dollars)


Interest Deficit




Interest Deficit
$1.1T $5.1T

$236B $233B $1.6T

What Debt Is Likely to Reach Primary



Primary Spending Revenues

$3.3T $2.0T

Primary Spending



Source: Congressional Budget Office, Alternative Fiscal Scenario



Interest Costs Will Reach $1 Trillion By 2024

Components of Revenue and Spending
Revenues and Financing Outlays

Interest 6% Borrowing 32% Non-Defense 15%

Medicare 14% Medicaid & Other Health 8%

Individual Income Tax 27%

Defense 19% Social Security 22%

Other 6% Social Insurance Taxes 24%

Corporate Tax 5%

Other Mandatory 16%

Total Revenues = $2.435 Trillion Total Financing = $1.128 Trillion

Total Outlays = $3.563 Trillion


Debt Projections

*Projections based on CRFB calculations of CBO Alternative Fiscal Scenario. Generally assumes current law, with the following exceptions: all expiring income and estate tax cuts and AMT patches are extended, scheduled cuts to Medicare physicians are waived, scheduled sequester cuts are waived, revenues and non-entitlement spending grow at the same rate as the economy after 2022, and cost saving measures from Affordable Care Act are only partially successful over the long-term.

Growing Entitlement Spending
(Percent of GDP)




Historical Revenue Level


0% 1972 1982 1992 2002 2012 2022 2032 2042 2052 2062 Revenue 2072 2082 Social Security Health Care Other Entitlements


Consequences of Debt
 “Crowding Out” of private sector
investment, leading to slower economic growth

 Higher Interest Payments displacing other
government priorities and investments

 Intergenerational Inequity as future
generations pay for current government spending

 Unsustainable Promises of high spending
and low taxes

 Uncertain Environment for businesses to
invest and households to plan

 Eventual Fiscal Crisis if changes are not

The Risk of Fiscal Crisis
“Rising Debt increases the likelihood of a fiscal crisis during which investors would lose confidence in the government's ability to manage its budget and the government would lose its ability to borrow at affordable rates.
-Doug Elmendorf, Director of the Congressional Budget Office

“Our national debt is our biggest national security threat.”
-Admiral Mike Mullen (ret.), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

“One way or another, fiscal adjustments to stabilize the federal budget must occur … *if we don’t act in advance+ the needed fiscal adjustments will be a rapid and painful response to a looming or actual fiscal crisis.”
-Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve


Debt Drivers
Short-Term Long-Term

 Economic Crisis
(lost revenue and increased spending on safety net programs like Food Stamps)

 Rapid Health Care Cost Growth
(causing Medicare and Medicaid costs to rise)

 Economic Response
(stimulus spending/tax breaks and financial sector rescue policies)

 Population Aging
(causing Social Security and Medicare costs to rise, and revenues to fall)

 Tax Cuts
(in 2001, 2003, and 2010)

 Growing Interest Costs
(from continued debt accumulation)

 War Spending
(in Iraq and Afghanistan)

 Insufficient Revenue

What the Debt Will Realistically Look Like

(to meet the costs of funding government)


Growing Entitlement Spending
Federal Spending and Revenues (Percent of GDP)
80% Actual 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Health Care Social Security Other Spending Revenues Interest Projected

Note: Estimates based on CBO, Alternative Fiscal Scenario.

Why Is Federal Health Spending Increasing?
 The Population Is Aging due to increased life
expectancy and retirement of the baby boom generation, adding more beneficiaries to Medicare and Medicaid

 Per Beneficiary Costs Are Growing faster than the
economy in both the public and private sector. Causes of this excess cost growth include:
 Americans Are Unhealthy when compared to
populations in similar economies

 Americans Are Wealthy and Willing to Pay More
 Fragmentation and Complexity among insurers,
providers, and consumers make normal market competition difficult

 Incentives Are Backwards by hiding true costs of care
through insurance and by hiding costs of insurance enrollment through employer sponsorship, incentivizing overspending

Health Care Spending by Country
Percent of GDP (2008)
18% 16% 14%

10% 8% 6% 4% 2% 0%

36% 64%



Source: 2008 Data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Number of Workers for Every Social Security Retiree is Falling
1950 1960 2012 2035







Source: 2012 Social Security Trustees Report.

Living Longer, Retiring Earlier
85 80 75 70 65 60 55 50 45
Normal Retirement Age Average Age of Retirement Early Retirement Age 5 year gap 13 year gap Average Life Expectancy

Source: Social Security Administration, U.S. Census Bureau, and OECD. Figures show data for males.

Looming Social Security Insolvency
Social Security Costs and Revenues (Percent of GDP)
7% Payable Benefits 6% Scheduled Benefits


4% Revenues 3%


Source: 2012 Social Security Trustees Report.

Interest as a Share of the Budget
(Percent of GDP)
2010 2030 2050

Primary Spending 94%

Interest 6%

Primary Spending 79%

Interest 21%

Primary Spending 63%

Interest 37%

Total Spending = 24% of GDP

Total Spending = 32% of GDP

Total Spending = 44% of GDP

Note: Estimates based on CBO, Alternative Fiscal Scenario.

Insufficient Revenue
 Unpaid for Tax Cuts in 2001, 2003, and
2010 lowered revenue collection without making corresponding spending cuts or tax increases to offset the budgetary effect

 Spending in the Tax Code Costs Over $1
Trillion annually in lost revenues through so called "tax expenditures," which make the tax code more complicated, less efficient, and force higher rates


Excessive Spending Through the Tax Code (Tax Expenditures)
TaxIn order to stabilize Debtof Primary the economy by 2021: Expenditures Expenditures as a Percent at 60% of Large Tax Spending if Included in the Budget and Their 2011 Costs (billions)

Employer Health Insurance Exclusion
Defense Discretionary 15%

$110 $91 $78 $60 $60 $56 $30

Tax Expenditures 24%

Special Rates on Dividends and Capital Gains Mortgage Interest Deduction 401(k)s and IRAs Earned Income Tax Credit

Non-Defense Discretionary 14% Health Spending 17% Social Secutity 16% Other Mandatory 12%

Child Tax Credit Charitable Deduction

Source: Joint Committee on Taxation.

Corporate Tax Rates by Country

Average Effective Rate 45% 40% 35%

Marginal Rate

25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0%

Note: Estimates based on 2010 data from the OECD and AEI.

How Much Do We Need to Save?
In order to stabilize debt at 60% or 70% of the economy by 2022:
(2013-2022 Savings) Current Law Baseline Debt in 2022 w/ No Savings (% GDP) Current Policy Current Policy Baseline Assuming Baseline Assuming Upper-Income Tax All Tax Cuts Cuts Expire* Continued* 77% 81%


Required Savings to Stabilize Debt at 70%
Required Savings to Stabilize Debt at 60%


$1.7 Trillion

$2.8 Trillion


$4.2 Trillion

$5.3 Trillion

*Estimates based on current policy baseline (2001/2003/2010 tax cuts extended, AMT patched, doc fixes, war costs decline, and sequester waived.

Setting the Record Straight
To put debt on a downward path toward safe levels, we need at least $4 trillion in savings this decade.
We can't CUT our way out
 Eliminating Congressional salaries, foreign aid, and earmarks would reduce the deficit by only
4%.  Balancing the budget through spending cuts alone would require cutting all spending by a third.

We can’t TAX our way out
 To fix the debt by increasing tax rates on EVERYONE, the bottom rate would have to rise from 10% to 16% and the top rate from 35% to 55%.  To fix the debt by taxing families making over $250,000, the top rate would have to exceed 100%*.

We can’t GROW our way out
 Faster growth means more revenue, but also higher spending on entitlement programs.  Fixing the debt with growth alone would require record-high growth rates every year.

We Need a Comprehensive Solution That Cuts Wasteful Spending, Reforms Entitlement Programs, and Raises Revenues
*Data from the Tax Policy Center.

We Can’t Inflate or Grow Our Way Out
 An unexpected increase in inflation
could temporarily reduce the real value of debt and federal interest payments to investors

 Strong economic growth is a necessary
but not sufficient condition for debt reduction

 Many spending programs grow as the
economy does, and would outpace revenue growth

 However, higher inflation would prompt
investors to demand higher interest payments, increasing the costs of financing new debt

 Social Security payments would
increase as wages and, thus, benefits grew over time

 Higher inflation would also push up
spending for all inflation-indexed programs, including Social Security, food stamps, military pensions, veterans’ benefits.

 Health care spending would grow
even faster, given that costs continually grow notably faster than the overall economy

 The levels of growth needed to
significantly reduce medium-term debts would be way above historical norms

The Benefits of Debt Reduction Done Right
Income per Person


The average person will earn $9,000 a year less if we don’t fix the debt.

 Stronger Economy

Higher wages and faster economic growth down the road


 Improved Confidence and
Certainty about the Future More hiring and investment


 Lower Interest Rates
Helping businesses and households to save and invest



Growing Debt Declining Debt

Source: Congressional Budget Office, Long-Term Outlook 2012.

Debt Reduction and Economic Growth
Real Output Growth (Percent)
4.0% 3.5% 3.0% 2.5% 2.0% 1.5% 1.0% 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 CBO Baseline Growth Medium Output Effect Small Output Effect Large Output Effect

CBO studied the economic impact of an illustrative $2.4 trillion debt reduction plan and found that real output would be between 0.6% and 1.4% higher, depending on the magnitude of the effects.

*Estimates from CBO, “The Macroeconomic and Budgetary Effects of an Illustrative Policy for Reducing the Federal Budget Deficit.”

How to Reduce the Deficit
 Domestic Discretionary Cuts
 Defense Spending Cuts  Health Care Cost Containment  Social Security Reform  Other Spending Cuts

 Tax Reform and Tax Expenditure

 Budget Process Reform


“Go Small”: Lots of Pain for Little Gain
 A smaller package would offer some
improvement to our fiscal situation, but it would not offer the benefits of a declining debt path

 The public would see a package of tough
choices and a debt burden that continues to grow. In essence, it would deliver political pain with not so much gain

 Would leave in place considerable policy
uncertainty, affecting businesses and markets

 A smaller package and an incremental
approach to debt reduction would not offer the political tradeoffs necessary to solve our fiscal challenges


What Could “Go Small” Look Like?

Possible Policy Changes


 Without addressing
health care reforms or revenues, it will be very difficult to achieve significant savings

Discretionary Health Care Other Mandatory Social Security Revenues Net Interest Total

$250 billion from chained CPI
$100-200 billion from modestly slower growth in BCA caps Negligible savings $150-250 billion from farm subsidies, federal civilian and military retirement and benefits, Fannie and Freddie, and others Negligible savings Negligible savings $100 billion $600-800 billion

 And even then, there is
no guarantee that significant savings in other areas of the budget could be agreed on


Adding Serious Entitlement Reforms and Revenues Pushes You into “Go Big”
 Democrats will only agree to serious entitlement reforms if there are revenues  Republicans will only agree to revenues in the context of comprehensive tax reform  Democrats will only agree to a comprehensive tax reform that replaces the Bush tax cuts if it raises at least the $800 billion they would get if President Obama vetoes extension of upper income tax cuts  Republicans will not agree to revenues anywhere near that amount without health savings that go beyond the amount proposed by the President

Advantages of “Go Big”
 Debt stabilized and falling as a share of
the economy later in the decade, and all the benefits associated with a declining debt burden:
 Less “crowding out” of private sector
     
investment Stronger confidence in businesses and markets Greater certainty and stability Stronger economy over the long-term Lower interest payments and increased fiscal space Intergenerational equity Reduced or eliminated risk of fiscal crisis


Advantages of “Go Big” (cont’d)
 Increased chances of enacting a
comprehensive debt solution of at least $3 - $4 trillion in savings:
 Political trade offs necessary to address
entitlement growth and revenues  Shared sacrifice in Go Big approach  Realize the gains of debt reduction by stabilizing and reducing the debt, and not just making difficult decisions that solve only part of the problem

 Restore America’s faith in the political


The Announcement Effect
 Just announcing the adoption of a debt reduction
plan can provide a boost in confidence, aiding the economic recovery today

 Businesses and investors frequently cite the
uncertainty over if and how the U.S. might control its debt trajectory when holding back on investment

 Prominent lawmakers, government officials,
economists, and experts have reiterated the benefits of the announcement effect, including:
      
Ben Bernanke, Fed Chairman The International Monetary Fund Glenn Hubbard, former Chair of the President’s CEA Mark Zandi, Chief Economist, Moody’s Analytics Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City Alan Blinder, former Fed Vice Chairman Larry Summers, former Director, NEC


Note: For more information on the “announcement effect,” see CRFB at http://crfb.org/blogs/announcing-announcement-effect-club

“Go Big”: Shared Sacrifice
 Expanding the size and scope of a package can promote a sense of shared
sacrifice on behalf of the American public and key interest groups, making it more likely that they would accept changes if everyone was contributing to the solution.

 An incremental approach would allow advocates for parts of the budget to argue
that they are bearing an unfair burden. A Go Big approach which achieves savings in all parts of the budget neutralizes that argument.

 In a Washington Post op-ed, Fiscal Commission co-chairs Erskine Bowles and Alan
Simpson highlighted this lesson from the Fiscal Commission deliberations: “The more comprehensive we made it, the easier our job became. The tougher our proposal, the more people came aboard. Commission members were willing to take on their sacred cows and fight special interests — but only if they saw others doing the same and if what they were voting for solved the country’s problems.”


The Bowles-Simpson Fiscal Commission Plan
Discretionary Spending
 Cuts to defense and non-defense programs,
totaling an additional $400 billion over ten years [on top of the savings already enacted].

Social Security
 Progressive benefit changes, retirement
age increase, tax increase for high earners totaling $300 billion.

Health Care Spending
 Cuts to providers, lawyers, drug companies, &
beneficiaries totaling $400 billion.

Other Mandatory Programs
 Reforms to farm, civilian/military retirement, &
other programs saving $290 billion.

Tax Reform and Revenue
 Comprehensive reform to lower tax rates,
broaden the base, and raise $1.2 trillion.

Is There a Smart Path Forward?
Deficit Projections as a Percent of GDP
$1,600 $1,400 $1,200 $1,000 $800 $600 $400 $200 $0 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 Current Law (CBO) Alternative Fiscal Scenario 9CBO) Illustrative Plan

Note: Illustrative plan loosely based on Fiscal Commission savings. Current policy based on CRFB Realistic Baseline.

Illustrative Tax Rates
2012 Rates, Expiration of the Tax Cuts, and Fiscal Commission’s Illustrative Plan
Corporate Rate 35% 35% 26%

Bottom Rates Current Rates for 2012 Scheduled Rates for 2013 Eliminate All Tax Expenditures Keep Child Tax Credit and EITC Fiscal Commission’s Illustrative Tax Plan 10% 15% 8% 15%

Middle Rates 25% 28% 14% 28% 31%

Top Rates 33% 36% 23% 35% 39.6%

9% 12%

15% 22%

24% 28%

26% 28%

Fiscal Commission’s illustrative tax plan would reduce or eliminate most tax expenditures and use the savings to reduce tax rates and reduce the deficit.


What’s in the Fiscal Cliff?
At the end of 2012, the following is scheduled to occur:

 All of the 2001/2003/2010 tax cuts will expire at once  The “sequester” will immediately cut defense by 10%, non-defense      
discretionary by 8%, and other spending across-the-board The payroll tax holiday and extended unemployment benefits will expire The AMT will hit 30 million taxpayers instead of 4 million All the tax extenders will expire Physicians will see a 30% cut in their Medicare payments Tax increases from the Affordable Care Act will begin The country will once again hit the debt ceiling


Components of the Fiscal Cliff
The Sequester
 Enacted in the 2011 BCA to pressure the Super Committee to enact a
plan, the sequester would cut spending across the board in January 2013.
% Reduction in 2013 (Budget Authority)
Defense Spending Non-Defense Disc. Spending Medicare Other Non-Exempt Spending Interest Total Cuts 9.4% 8.2% 2% 7.6% N/A +$100 billion

2012-2022 Cuts (Budget Authority)
$550 billion $360 billion $125 billion $45 billion $170 billion $1,250 billion

Note: Defense reduction would be closer to 10% when compared to spending levels enacted last year, but war spending and unobligated balances on net push this percentage down. In reality, sequester cuts in all categories will be larger for 2013 given that they will be applied over nine months instead of a full fiscal year.

Source: Congressional Budget Office and Office of Management and Budget. Numbers are rounded.

Components of the Fiscal Cliff
Other Policies Set to Activate or Expire
 Jobs Measures
 2% payroll tax holiday  Extended duration for unemployment benefits

 Annual Doc Fixes

 Affordable Care Act Tax Increases
 0.9% increase in HI tax for higher earners and applying the full 3.8% tax to net
investment income  2.3% tax on medical devices  Other measures

 Various “Tax Extenders”
   

R&E tax credit Alcohol fuel tax credit Subpart F for active financing income Other extenders

How Big Is the Fiscal Cliff?
Policy 2001/2003/2010 Income and Estate Tax Cuts AMT Patches (w/ Tax Cut Interactions) 2013 Fiscal Impact $110 billion 2013-2022 Fiscal Impact $4.3trillion

$105 billion
$55 billion $10 billion $115 billion $30 billion $25 billion ~$450 billion ~3%

$1.7 trillion
$1.1 trillion $280 billion $150 billion $455 billion $420 billion $8.1 trillion N/A

Sequester Doc Fixes
Jobs Measures Various “Tax Extenders” Taxes from the Affordable Care Act Total Fiscal Impact Total Economic Impact (% GDP)

Note: Congressional Budget Office estimates and CRFB calculations. 2013-2022 estimates include interest.

Budgetary and Economic Impact in 2013
Billions of Dollars

36% 64%

Source: Congressional Budget Office estimates and rough CRFB calculations.

Short-Term Economic Impact of the Fiscal Cliff

 Expiring/activating measures will create a “fiscal shock” of
about 4 percent of GDP, which could take about 2 percent out of the economy in the short-term and increase the unemployment rate by over 1 percentage point

 CBO projects that the economic impact of the fiscal cliff
would send the economy into a double-dip recession next year

Source: Congressional Budget Office.

Long-Term Economic Impact of the Fiscal Cliff
The Fiscal Cliff could improve the long-term, BUT:

 Savings in the Fiscal Cliff will not deal with the long-term debt
drivers – growing health and retirement costs

 Revenue will come largely from higher marginal rates, which
will reduce incentives to work, save, and invest

 Spending cuts will come from mindless across-the-board cuts
instead of cuts to low-priority and anti-growth spending


Lawmakers Face a Fiscal Cliff and a Mountain of Debt
 BAD CASE: A Fiscal Cliff
If lawmakers allow all policy expirations and the sequester to proceed as scheduled, the economy could take a 2 percent hit next year, while not addressing entitlement spending growth or fundamental tax reform

 WORST CASE: A Mountain of Debt
If lawmakers waive or extend policies at the end of the year, they could add more than $8 trillion to the debt over the next ten years, compared to current law. Rising debt would reduce the size of the economy by about 1% later in the decade and by significantly more in future years


Is There a Smart Path Forward?
Instead of a Fiscal Cliff or Mountain of Debt, we should enact a comprehensive and thoughtful plan which would:

 Go Big
 A plan must stabilize and reduce the debt relative to the economy  A go big plan would make bipartisan compromise more likely by
allowing for the necessary tradeoffs

 Go Smart
 Replace mindless, abrupt deficit reduction with thoughtful changes
that reform the tax code and cut low-priority spending

 Go Long
 Enact gradual reforms that address the long-term costs of growing
entitlement spending


Benefits of Replacing the Fiscal Cliff with a Go Big Plan
 Achieves long-term growth without short-term contraction
 Avoids both a double-dip recession and a potential
downgrade from credit rating agencies

 Allows for sensible policy decisions to make the tax code
more competitive, reform entitlement programs, and eliminate wasteful spending

 Reduces market and public uncertainty over future tax and
spending policies


What Savings Have Lawmakers Enacted So Far?
(Billions of Dollars through 2021)
$2,500 $2,000 $1,500 $1,000 $500 $0

The bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Commission recommended more than $4 trillion in deficit reduction So far, policymakers have enacted $1.3 trillion in deficit reduction and $1 trillion in mindless across-the-board spending cuts

Simpson-Bowles Recommendations Enacted Savings
Note: Simpson-Bowles figures represent original recommendations, updated based on baseline changes in Cooper-LaTourette proposal. Estimates based off of realistic budget projections.

It’s Time for a Fiscal Reform Plan
Reasons to Enact a Plan Sooner Rather than Later
Size of Adjustment to Close 25-year Fiscal Gap, Depending on Start Year (Percent of GDP)

 Allows for gradual phase in  Improves generational fairness  Gives taxpayers businesses, and
entitlement beneficiaries time to plan





 Creates “announcement effect”
to improve growth



 Reduces size of necessary

2025 0% 2% 4% 6% 8%

9.7% 10% 12%

Source: Congressional Budget Office

It’s Time for a Fiscal Reform Plan…Now
We Can’t Wait Until After the Election
 Every month and year that passes, the debt grows larger and larger and
the solutions become more difficult

 Elections can take policy options off the table and back candidates into
positions that make bipartisan solutions more difficult

 Addressing the fiscal situation as soon as possible would make
governing easier – not harder – after the election


Who Supports Fixing the Debt?
Calls for a $4+ Trillion, Bipartisan Solution to the Debt
 47 Members of the Senate  102 Members of the House of Representatives  200 Business Groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, National
Association of Manufacturers, and Business Roundtable

 Other groups: Partnership for New York City, American Business
Conference, National Conference of State Legislatures

 60+ former government officials, business leaders, and experts  Editorial boards and other outside experts  Over 170,000 concerned citizens


Principles of Fiscal Responsibility
For the 2012 Campaign
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.

Make Deficit Reduction a Top Priority
Propose Specific Fiscal Targets Recommend Specific Policies to Achieve the Targets Do No Harm

Use Honest Numbers and Avoid Budget Gimmicks
Do Not Perpetuate Budget Myths Do Not Attack Someone Else’s Plan Without Putting Forward an Alternative Refrain from Pledges That Take Policies Off the Table

Propose Specific Solution for Social Security, Health Programs, and the Tax Code
Offer Solutions for Temporary and Expiring Policies Encourage Congress to Come Up with a Budget Plan as Quickly as Possible Remain Open to Bipartisan Compromise

Note: Principles as taken from CRFB’s U.S. BudgetWatch Project.

The Time For Action Is Now

“If not addressed, burgeoning deficits will eventually lead to a fiscal crisis, at which point the bond markets will force decisions upon us. If we do not act soon to reassure the markets, the risk of a crisis will increase, and the options available to avert or remedy the crisis will both narrow and become more stringent.”
- Erskine Bowles and Sen. Alan Simpson,
Former co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform


Useful Resources
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget http://crfb.org The Campaign to Fix the Debt http://www.fixthedebt.org Policy Papers: Between a Mountain of Debt and a Fiscal Cliff Primary Numbers: The GOP Candidates Going Big Could Improve the Chances of Success

Congressional Budget Office July 16, 2011 report: The Macroeconomic and Budgetary Effects of an Illustrative Policy for Reducing the Federal Budget Deficit


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