The Weiner Component Vol.2 #3 – The Purpose of Government

English: Citizens registered as an Independent...

English: Citizens registered as an Independent, Democrat or Republican. Derived from :Image:Party affiliation USA.jpg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If the question of what is the primary purpose of government in the 21st Century is raised then depending upon which major political party you adhere to you get different answers. 

 

Historically people have always been social animals, always functioning in groups with some form of social organization.  Traditionally governments have functioned to provide a framework in which people have lived.  They have provided rules or laws that have allowed them to live together, kept them safe within the society and from foreign invaders, provided the necessities for reasonable living conditions and protected their property.  These governments have provided a currency and regulated trade within and with other nations.  Other than that people have provided for their individual needs for themselves.  This, in essence, is the Republican concept of the function of government.

 

In 1929, through following these concepts and unlimited growth on the stock market, the United States economy crashed and billions of dollars were lost almost overnight in the 1929 Great Depression.  From 1929 through 1932 feeble attempts were made by the Republican dominated government to allow the Stock Market to adjust itself.  Instead it kept dropping lower.  This occurred from 1929 through 1932, when it and the rest of the economy reached its lowest level.  The Market Model was unable to adjust itself; it had been abused too much.

 

In 1933, the Democrat, Franklin D. Roosevelt became President, replacing the Republican, Herbert Hoover.  Roosevelt, in dealing with the massive unemployment problem, extended the purpose of the Federal Government, by having the Federal Government assume responsibility for those people who could no longer function successfully within the broken society.  He created mechanisms whereby these people could again function with a measure of success within the economy.  The Federal Government had now assumed responsibility for the people in the country who could no longer provide for themselves.  This now became the new additional function of the Central Government. 

 

While conditions improved considerably the Great Depression did not end until about 1940 with the outbreak of World War II when first European and Asian nations bought unlimited goods from America and at the end of 1941 when the Federal Government began unlimited spending in fighting the war. 

 

The government had dedicated itself to a new purpose which would continue on after the war had ended, more or less, depending upon which political party controlled the Central Government.  The Republicans tended to favor business and the wealthy, limiting social spending as much as possible, while the Democrats favored the middle and lower class extending this practice as much as they could.

 

Currently with the Republicans in control of Congress and the Presidency they are moving to get rid of Obamacare (Affordable Health Care).  They are presumably going to replace it with Trumpcare, whatever that is.  Probably it will be a voucher system that will be cheaper for the government to operate, but will gradually become more and more expensive for its recipients as medical costs increase but government vouchers do not.

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Two events occurred: one began in the 1970s, an increasing need for more money to be available in the National Cash Flow; and the other in the 1980s with the election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency.  In the earlier decade the major banking houses in the country began packaging mortgages in small fractions and selling them.  They did this gradually on a larger and larger scale.  The process took off in the 1980s with the Reagan White House.  This, in turn, increased the value of the homes.  In essence a percentage of the population began mortgaging and refinancing the ever increasing value of their houses over and over again.  At no time during the 30 years of this period was there any real inflation in the country.  For the first 10 years the country was in an inflationary cycle that began with the Viet Nam War.  This was ended at the beginning of the 1980s.

 

Reagan was the first of the really Conservative Presidents.  Forty-five years earlier he had majored in economics as an undergraduate in college.  Since that point in history economics had developed far from where it had been when Reagan was a college senior.  Much more about its functioning was understood in the 1980s.

 

Adam Smith began modern economics with the publication of his work,  “An Inquiry into the Wealth of Nations,” in 1776.  In this work, among other things, he developed the Market Model, which functioned through the use of the “invisible hand.”  The invisible hand is the profit motive.  Smith believed that the profit motive would best make all the Market decisions of what to produce and how to produce it. 

 

President Ronald Reagan and a good percentage of Republicans in Congress also believed this.  During his presidency hey did away with all bank regulatory laws that had been developed during the 1930s and beyond to avoid another Great Depression.

 

In the period before the 1929 Stock Market Crash many bank executives had taken depositors monies and invested them in stocks.  Shortly thereafter when the price went up they had sold the stocks and pocketed the profits.  People could also buy stocks on margin; all an investor needed was 10% of the value of the stock he/she bought, the banks would lend the remaining 90%.   The problem here was that many people were in love with the concept of the stocks, not with their true value, and they kept forcing up the value of all the stocks by continually buying and selling them.  This created a bubble that had to burst at some time.  When it did, from 1929 on, it not only bankrupted innumerable stockholders but also innumerable banks with unbelievable negative effects upon the overall economy.

 

The result of what Reagan considered reforms was that a multitude of banking organizations began an almost limitless level of refinancing homes, allowing people to take their ever increasing equity out of their properties to buy whatever, and countless billions of dollars were created in the National Cash Flow allowing almost endless spending.  All of this occurred until 2008 when the bubble burst.  Interestingly some of these companies insured the bank loans, charging generous premiums.  These companies and many banks faced immediate bankruptcy with the crash.

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In the year 2008 the Housing Bubble, that had been developing over the last forty years, burst, bringing about an almost instant and complete drop in home property values.  People’s home values virtually dropped overnight hundreds of thousands of dollars per single unit leaving a percentage of homeowners underwater, suddenly owing more on their home properties than they were worth.

 

This process had been slowly building since the 1970s, with it massively accelerating during the Reagan administration in the 1980s, when virtually all banking laws, many of which came into being during The Great Depression in the 1930s, were done away with and the country followed the administration’s mantra of letting the Free Market make all the economic decisions.  A good percentage of the population, with strong encouragement from the banks, had gone through a wild period of spending.

 

Specifically what happened was that the country did not have enough money in the National Cash Flow to meet its needs.  There was a shortage of money in the overall society.  The banks, among the many services they perform for the general society, also can increase or decrease the amount of cash available within their specific regions.  They do this through their lending or non-lending practices.  Most exchanges of cash at this time was through the transfer of funds by writing checks, bringing about an exchange of numbers in different columns of different bank ledgers.

 

People discovered the advantages of their equity in their home loans by taking out First, Second, and Third mortgages based upon their equity.  Over the forty year period as people borrowed upon their homes the value of their homes went up continually.  It seems the continual borrowing created a desire in people who rented living space to attempt to buy homes, forcing up the value of the homes even more for this forty year period.  Properties that were purchased for well under one hundred thousand dollars, because of the sudden great demand, were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

 

For the forty year period, well into the year 2008 home values kept rising.  People refinanced their properties over and over again buying whatever they wanted.  The overall economy prospered.  People bought all the toys they ever wanted: boats, mobile homes for traveling, whatever.  There was no real inflation.

 

By the year 2007 the indications of a collapse were present for those in a position to understand what was going on.  But the bankers, who had taken home millions in compensation, were in total denial.  They were incapable of understanding that conditions could change.  To encourage further refinancing many banks raised the level of refinancing homes to 125% of the appraised value of the property.

 

Toward the end of the year 2008 the bubble burst or the crash came.  Many homeowners suddenly discovered that they were underwater, owing more on their home than they were then worth.  Some just walked away from their properties, leaving a deserted house behind them.  Others just stopped making payments they could no longer afford.  Unemployment rose significantly. 

 

Hedge Funds that had been developed from some of this mortgage paper were suddenly worthless.  Banks foreclosed upon properties that they both owned or had owned and sold to hedge funds.  The entire situation was a total mess.  Hedge funds were suddenly worthless, many banks were on the point of bankruptcy.  It looked like the entire economy was on the point of collapse.

 

At this point President George W. Bush and his Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson, arranged for bank loans to keep many financial institutions from going bankrupt.  Then Bush was replaced by President Barack Obama who continued the bank loans and also bailed out the American auto industry which was also at the point of bankruptcy at that time.  With President Obama’s massive spending efforts what could have been a greater depression than the Great Depression of 1929 turned into what has been called the Great Recession, from which the country is still on its way out of.  By January of 2017 unemployment in the United States had dropped to 4.8%. 

 

The problem that existed here is that from the 1970s on more money was needed in the economy that should have been supplied by the Federal Reserve on a more gradual level.  A controlled increase of funds for the nation would have allowed for a slow healthy economic growth with no crash in 2008.  Allowing the banks to do this with just the profit motive led to unlimited and reckless greed as the major factor controlling the economy.

     

English: Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Herbert...

English: Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover in convertible automobile on way to U.S. Capitol for Roosevelt’s inauguration, March 4, 1933 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Th

e Great Depression was caused by the Republican’s legislating after World War I.  This was from the election of Warren Harding to the presidency through Herbert Hoover.  They created the necessary laws and general milieu that allowed it to come about.  The Housing Crash of 2008 was set forth by the policies of President Ronald Reagan.  He inspired and brought about the environment that allowed the financial institutions to go berserk through the unhampered use of the profit motive.  Now, with the election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency an equally horrible situation exists with the Republican legislature and Trump promising to do away with Affordable Health Care and the distinct possibility of taking medical care away from about 30 million citizens.

 

During his first year as President in 1993 William Jefferson Clinton, among other things, attempted to set up a system of Universal Health Care for all the people in the United States.  He placed his wife, Hillary, in charge of a task force that was supposed to develop a plan for this.  The Republicans were strongly against it.  They tried everything they could to kill this plan.  Finally they succeeded when they came up with a slogan: “There has to be a better way.”  The “better way” ended up being: No way.  With this mantra they successfully ended the plan for universal health care in 1993.

 

During President Barack Obama’s first two years in office he had a Democratic majority in Congress.  Together, they came up with a plan for the majority of people in the country to achieve health care.  The plan had been developed by a Republican think tank for Mitt Romney, when he was governor of Massachusetts.  I imagine that President Obama assumed that a Republican Plan would gain some Republican support in both Houses of Congress.  But by that time the Republican members of Congress had in a caucus and taken an oath to make Obama a one term President by not supporting anything he supported or for which he could take credit.  As a consequence they have vigorously opposed and continually denounced Obamacare (Affordable Health Care), which was in actuality their plan.  Affordable Health Care was passed in Congress strictly on a party basis, not one Republican Congressman voted for it.

 

In 2011 the Republicans gained a majority in the House of Representatives.  From then on the House passed bills to do away with Affordable Health Care; this was over fifty times.  While the Democrats controlled the Senate the bill was not even taken up there.  In 2014 the Republicans also gained the majority in the Senate.  In 2016 they gained Donald J. Trump as the new Republican President.  They are promising to replace Obamacare with a new and better policy.  But no specific plan seems to be on the horizon.  Meanwhile the first steps have been taken to begin the process dismantling Affordable Health Care.

 

Interestingly even the Republicans are now stating their sense of responsibility for the medical welfare of the general public.  But Affordable Health Care was their plan for universal health care.  It entails using private enterprise to bring universal medical care into existence. 

 

What is interesting or strange is that in 2012 when President Barack Obama ran for reelection, his Republican adversary, Mitt Romney and his fellow Republicans seem to have totally forgotten the Crash or Great Recession of 2008.  When elected they were going to do away with the laws passed in 2009 and 2010 to avoid that situation from occurring again.  And the same is true about the Presidential Election of 2016.  It would seem that the Republicans have some sort of collective amnesia about their own past.  The difference is that in 2016 the Republican candidate, Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans won the election, not only the presidency but also both Houses of Congress.  What will they do?  It seems that the Republicans themselves are not sure

The Weiner Component #57A – The Rapacious Banks (Part 1 of 5)

Photo of Bank of America ATM Machine by Brian ...

Perhaps the most predatory group of institutions within the United States are the major banking houses.  They are rapacious, grasping, taking, plundering and in many cases outright dishonest.  These financial institutions place themselves between the general public and all the goods and services they need to live, using the money put into the banks by businesses and the general public to game the public and force up the prices of all the goods and services they need.  When caught in illegal acts by the government these banks pay large fines that represent a small percentage of what they have made from these activities.

We have in earlier articles discussed the Great Depression of 1929 and the Real Estate Debacle of 2008.  To review briefly prior to 1929 the banks created hundreds of billions of dollars through the use of ten percent margin stock purchases, that continually kept inflating the stock market over a period of many years, until through exaggerated excess it crashed and over a relatively short period of time the overall value of all stocks dropped from about 86 billion to about 19 billion dollars, and the entire economy collapsed, reaching about 25% unemployment.  (Keep in mind that gold, which was money at the time, was worth $16 an ounce in 1929.)

The major banks that had been bundling mortgages for decades also brought about the Real Estate Debacle of 2008, selling the bundles, and reinvesting the original funds into new mortgages, which were subsequently bundled and sold again.  This process continued infinitely creating multi-trillions of dollars in new revenue, a good percentage of which went to the banks as profits and fees.  The process continued until the bubble burst toward the end of 2008.  If not for government bailouts the entire economy would have collapsed.  With the bailouts unemployment hit about 12%.  Here in late 2013 we still have only partial recovery with both the Republicans in Congress and the Republican dominated states holding it back.  Unemployment is currently hovering at about 7%.

Since the bank bailouts these institutions have looked for and found innumerable other ways to up their profits and compensation packages.  None of these methods have had anything to do with serving the general public, whose insured money they use for their machinations.

As a footnote, consider that if the banks had been allowed to fail in 2008 the Federal Government through the Federal Insurance Deposit Corporation (FDIC) would have been responsible for paying all deposits in these banks up to $250,000, a quarter of a million dollars.  The money the government spent on the bailout was probably less than this amount would have been and it has since been paid back with interest.

Banking foreclosures from 2009 on, after the Real Estate Bubble burst, and housing prices dropping rapidly and significantly caused a large number of homeowners to be far underwater on the amount of money they owed on their property.  The banks had encouraged them to use their homes as bank accounts and continually refinance, even toward the end refinancing in many cases up to 125 percent of the appraised value of the property.

As we’ve seen the banks did not hold the mortgages on a large number of these properties.  The paper had been divided into fractional pieces and become part of innumerable hedge funds.  The banks had formerly issued and sold the paper but still serviced these loans.  Non-ownership of these mortgages did not stop many of the large banking houses from foreclosing on these properties they did not own.  Any money they made on the foreclosure was pure profit.

The banks computers generated the papers they needed for foreclosures and they used robo-signers to foreclose on these properties.  Interestingly for a while the courts considered the bank’s papers and efforts sacrosanct, even to the point of holding many attorneys, who represented homeowners, in contempt for questioning bank documents.  Eventually the evidence came out about the false documentation and the robo-signing of multi-thousands of these foreclosures.  At this point virtually all the major banking houses stopped foreclosing.  The banks were fined in the millions of dollars but these amounts were a fraction of what they had made from their illegal activities.  No one in the banking industry went to jail for any of the illegal activities they committed.  Eventually the Federal Government began buying up the mortgage paper.

Under the Obama Administration the main executives of the banks that accepted bailout money could not receive multi-million dollar compensation packages.  The CEO from the Bank of America complained about this and stated that the B of A would pay off its loan as quickly as possible so they could resume proper pay packages.

After the bailout the banks became very cautious with their funds.  It became difficult for ordinary consumers to receive loans.  In order to purchase a house they had to have a significant down payment.  Small business entrepreneurs found it impossible to borrow money for almost any purpose.  The banks had essentially stopped serving the public; they were looking for ways to make large profits.  One of the areas they moved into was the futures market.

Almost all commodities, be they necessary food items such as beef or wheat and corn, lumber, financial currencies, oil, or electricity, are sold on the Futures Exchange.  The futures market is a central financial exchange where banks or individuals can buy specific quantities of a commodity or financial instrumens at a specified price with delivery set at a specified time in the future.

Since the Real Estate Debacle of 2008 the large banks in the United States have gone into this in a large way.  J. P. Morgan Chase stated, when they were accused of lying to a U.S. Government investigative committee, that the eight or ten million dollars a month that they would lose from selling electricity in California was insignificant.  Someone from Goldman Sacs said about a year or so ago that they made forty-nine dollars from every barrel of oil sold in the United States.  And this does not include beef, pork, or any other products sold on the future markets.  Somehow I get a rather sick feeling when I think that the major banks are using the money we deposit in them to squeeze dollars out of us for all the products we need to live.

Toward the end of 2013 the city of Los Angeles accused banking giants Wells Fargo & Co, and Citigroup Inc. of a “continuous pattern and practice” of mortgage discrimination that led to a wave of foreclosures, reduced property tax revenue, and increased costs for city services.  The two lawsuits accused both banks of engaging in predatory lending and saddling minorities with loans they couldn’t afford and resulted in a high percentage of foreclosures, The suits cited reports for low income and minority neighborhoods that claimed the mortgage crisis resulted in more than 200,000 foreclosures in LA from 2008 through 2012 and depressed property values, leading to an estimated loss of 48 million dollars in tax revenue for the city.  The suit alleges that the banks predatory lending started in 2004 and still continues.  What will happen here should be very interesting.

Also a federal judge is currently considering a possible 165.8 million dollar penalty against Bank of America Corporation after a jury found its Countrywide Unit fold defective loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  U.S. lawyers requested that the bank pay 863.8 million dollars, which is as much as the government agencies lost in the loans.

The banks do not serve us instead they use us, squeezing every possible dime they can out of the public and the Federal Government.

 

 

 

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The Weiner Component #54 – The History & Use of Money

Money cash

Over most of human history money, gold coins, have been an object of value that have been exchanged for either goods or services of equal value.  This changed in 1933 when money became essentially a paper note with symbolic intrinsic value, which was still used for the exchange of goods and services.  Finally in 1969 the last vestige of theoretical gold was removed from paper money and all coins became copper sandwiches where before they had contained silver.  Since that time there has been nothing behind the dollar except the word of the United States Government.

Economics exists on two levels: one, which affects everybody, is Microeconomics, and the other, which effects only the Federal Government, is Macroeconomics.  Microeconomics deals with individuals and family incomes and budgets; with any entity that lives on a fixed specific income, be it taxes, rents, dividends, or earnings.  Macroeconomics deals with the government adjusting and fine-tuning the entire economy of the nation.  It has to do with adjusting the money supply, interest rates, and the functioning of the nation.

Money, the amount of money one has or earns, determines where that individual fits in the general society.  If one has an adequate amount with which to live then it is not overly important; but if one never has quite enough, then its lack supplies an endless pressure on an individual and his family’s life.  Unfortunately the majority of the population does not ever have quite enough.

What is the problem with having enough money?  Better yet, what is money?  What is it really worth?  Why is money unequally distributed among the population?

Historically, during ancient times, precious metals like gold and silver were exchanged for goods.  This was done in addition to barter.  The metal would be weighed and the weight would determine the value.  Probably the Phoenicians, who traded along the Mediterranean Sea, began this practice well over two thousand years ago.  They traded value for value.

At some point in history, again probably by the Phoenicians, money was invented.  A set amount of gold or silver was stamped with some image, usually a ruler of some dominion.  The coins were uniform, always having the same weight, thus being of a constant value.  This eliminated using scales for the exchange of goods and services.  It made doing business easier.  The basic concept remained the same, trading something of value for a metal of equal value.

The invention of coins, as less valuable metals were gradually used, allowed over time for an end of barter and an extension of the exchange of goods and services for money, which could be traded at any times for other goods and services in virtually any region or state.

How long did it take for this system to become established throughout the ancient world?  Probably it took at least hundreds of years for it to become common practice.

What developed was a system of exchanging goods and or services for an equal value in metals (coins, money).  Once this was established business could occur anywhere.

Probably from its inception or shortly thereafter there were never enough coins to handle the amount of business possible.  This kept the value of the metal high and allowed for slow economic growth.

The Roman Emperor, Nero, from what we know, was the first or at least one of the first rulers to “water the money;” that is, to add a less expensive metal to the molten gold from which the coins were cast.  The process increased the amount of money the state could spend but I also resulted in a continuous inflation during his reign by lowering the value of the coins.

With the exception of the 16th Century, when Spain looted the New World and brought seemingly endless shiploads of gold to Europe that were immediately turned in currency (gold coins). This brought about a period of inflation that lasted about ninety years.  During this period wages stayed the same but the value of the money continually decreased.  It was a time of rapacious inflation

Outside of this period there has always been a shortage of gold in relationship to the amount of trade (business) that could be done.  Also By the 16th Century Letters of Credit were developed in Europe by banking houses, which made the transfer of money in large amounts fairly simple.  In fact, the Hanseatic League and the Renaissance banking houses created a form of checking.  In essence modern capitalism began here.

In order to stretch the needed money supply and increase their profits banking houses issued paper money that, presumably, could be turned into gold (coins) at any time.  Of course, if any negative rumor occurred, and all the depositors brought their paper money in to exchange it for gold there would be a run on the bank.  The bank would run out of gold, the balance of the paper would become worthless, and the bank would become bankrupt.  These periods brought about the business cycle, periods of prosperity and depression within the respective nations.  Modern capitalism thus came into existence.

The Great Depressions of 1929 and 2008 were results of this type of action.  The great banking houses of the United States brought them both about.  Prior to 1929 the banks lent endless amounts of money to people with which to buy stock.  The margin rate was 10%.  For every dime the citizen invested he could buy one dollar’s worth of stock.  This drove the price of stocks through the ceilings, creating multi-billions of dollars.  With the competition to get rich quickly stock prices continually rose until they reached a point in 1929 when this whole house of cards collapsed and the investors and the banks went bankrupt within a relatively short period of time.  The nation teetered on the point of economic collapse until 1933 when Roosevelt became president.  He was able to bring about partial recovery until 1939 when World War II broke out.  The war ended the Great Depression in 1939 in the United States since there were endless orders for war supplies and food production coming into the U.S.

What Roosevelt did in1933 was to double the money supply by collecting all gold coins and issuing paper in their place.  He also doubled the value of gold from $16 an ounce to $32 dollars an ounce, thereby doubling the money supply and giving the government the ability to spend billions in economic recovery.

But, if we go by the value of the Stock Market, it was not enough.  The value of the Stock Market went from 86 billion dollars to 16 billion dollars.  Roosevelt needed to increase the value of gold to 64 dollars an ounce to match the amount of money that existed in circulation before the 1929 Crash.  This he could not do.

With the Real Estate Debacle, which occurred late in 2008 the situation was similar.  The banks over a thirty-some year period had discovered that they could bundle mortgages into massive packages and sell them as hedge funds, supposedly as safe interest paying investments to innumerable investors.  What the banks did was to issue the mortgages, sell them off in bundles, get their original investments back, and then process the funds for fees on several levels.  In essence they controlled the mortgages without having any money invested in them.  This was continued until the banks were issuing loans based upon 125% of the appraised value of the real estate.  This process continued over three decades until the bubble burst and property values dropped like lead weights from tall buildings, leaving many of the homeowners underwater, owing more on the property than it was suddenly worth.  Both Presidents Bush and Obama pumped money into the banks, bailing them out before the entire financial structure of the United States collapsed.

In both the above cases the banks were motivated by intense greed, endless profits, exploiting the system to become super-rich.  In 2008 the bankers were earning in the multi-millions as their compensation packages, and those below them were not far behind them earning lesser million in fees.  The real estate industry was going berserk with the multitude of fees they were earning.  Many homeowners were happily using their real estate as bank accounts and industry was prospering.  It was a happy “twilight state” that lasted until the bubble burst and the economy tanked.  Then if not for the steps taken by the Obama Administration, the entire nation would have collapsed.

The major historic problem still exists, even though the government prints and issues money as needed, there is not enough money in circulation to allow for all the exchange of goods and services needed within the society.  Can this problem be rectified?  The answer is easily by the Federal Government using both fiscal and monetary Policy.

The major problem here as far as the overall population is concerned is that most people still think of money in terms of gold.  With Macroeconomics it is a tool that the government uses to enhance productivity.  In itself money has no real value except that assigned to it by the government as a token of exchange.  The Federal Government can issue as much as it feels is needed.  The only limitation on this is inflation.  If there is too much money in circulation, more money that goods and services needed then we could have a rabid inflation.  This and this only would limit the amount of currency that the government can circulate.  Money is not gold and should not be treated as such.  This behavior can limit productivity and bring about a continuing recession as it has since the end of 2008.

Unfortunately the Tea Party Republican controlled House of Representatives has not only not used fiscal policy but has also seriously restrained Federal spending, exacerbating the problem of unemployment.  We are still in a recession with a seven plus percent level of unemployment.  This could easily be rectified if the Federal Government could take proper action.

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