Video: Food inflation far outstrips gov’t calculations

posted at 1:41 pm on February 17, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

If you’ve noticed a higher grocery bill in this era of supposedly low inflation, you’re not imagining things. Despite Washington estimates of low consumer inflation over the last few years, the prices of goods at the market are rising rapidly — especially for meat items, which have risen by double digits since 2011. Jen Singer celebrates in this CBS News profile when she spots bacon on sale for three dollars a pound, when bacon prices have shot up 22% over the last three years:

The adage “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is impossible thanks to apple prices, she said.

“We go through one of these every few days,” she said, holding a loaf of bread. “It’s a big part of my take home pay.”

It’s is not her imagination. While the government says prices are up 6.4 percent since 2011, chicken is up 18.4 percent, ground beef is up 16.8 percent and bacon has skyrocketed up 22.8 percent, making it a holiday when it’s on sale.

“Oh my god!” Singer said as she spied bacon for $3.

The real problem, though, is that wages aren’t keeping pace with food inflation. They’re not even coming close, despite all of the talk about the recovering economy:

But the big problem for families:  Wages are not budging. …

Median income is up only 1 percent a year.  For Singer, that makes it hard to save for college tuition – which has been rising 6 percent to 8 percent every year for five decades.

Forget college; how is an average family supposed to keep up with inflation on the essentials? Singer’s turning down the heat in the house to save money for groceries, but the real problem is that the family’s buying power in wages is steadily and quickly eroding. Wage growth isn’t even keeping up with the government’s projected inflation, let alone the food inflation at the grocery store.

That won’t change until two pressures on the economy are reversed: rising costs on business and improvement of chronic joblessness. The latter keeps wages depressed by providing a large labor pool for a relatively small number of net jobs created over the last five years since the beginning of the recovery in June 2009. On average since then, we have created significantly fewer jobs each month than necessary to keep pace with population growth. In large part, the job-creation market has been stifled by extra costs and disincentives to investors and businesses in job-creating expansion and risk-taking. Those same costs, along with relatively high energy costs, get passed along to consumers in higher prices, putting them in the economic vise described in this CBS report.

Today’s the 5th anniversary of Barack Obama’s stimulus bill, as the Boss Emeritus notes. Where did the recovery go?


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I am sick and tired of being in line at the supermarket and watching them unload full carts with the choicest cuts of meat while I am buying budget chicken and cheaper cuts of meat. They pay with EBT while I pay with cash…

OmahaConservative on February 17, 2014 at 4:55 PM

Government statistics…that bit of Orwellian doublespeak says all that’s needed about the value of their ‘numbers.’

Inflation is far higher than the government wants to bother accounting for, because they have no incentive to actually chart it properly. If they do, they need to account for higher costs related to COLA in entitlement (rent-seeking) spending, and they would have to explain to the voters (the ones who aren’t asleep or too stupid to think) why things are so bad (government regulations strangling the economy, Fed money printing turning the dollar into toilet paper, government borrowing doing the same).

They have no incentive to be honest in the data, so they aren’t, and nobody cares.

xNavigator on February 17, 2014 at 4:59 PM

I am sick and tired of being in line at the supermarket and watching them unload full carts with the choicest cuts of meat while I am buying budget chicken and cheaper cuts of meat. They pay with EBT while I pay with cash…

OmahaConservative on February 17, 2014 at 4:55 PM

You ain’t the only one. I’m deep in a blue city and feel like I’m the odd one that still pays with my own earnings. Oh well, won’t be to much longer and I’ll be in the gulch full time.

P. Logan on February 17, 2014 at 5:03 PM

“While the government says prices are up 6.4 percent since 2011, chicken is up 18.4 percent, ground beef is up 16.8 percent and bacon has skyrocketed up 22.8 percent”

Wait… you mean the government lies to us every day? Hold on while I try and look surprised…

dominigan on February 17, 2014 at 5:15 PM

Regarding the EBT cards, the newest fraud to the system is “cash back”. You’re allowed up to $100 cash back from a transaction. So if you have $400 on the EBT card, you go to the supermarket and buy four packs of gum or mints in four separate transactions. The cashier rings one up for $1, the customer asks from $99 back. They do that four times, and the customer walks out with four packs of gum and $396 in cash to do with whatever they wish. Happens a lot. And the cashier or store can’t do a darn thing about it.

TrubadorMike on February 17, 2014 at 5:28 PM

I am sick and tired of being in line at the supermarket and watching them unload full carts with the choicest cuts of meat while I am buying budget chicken and cheaper cuts of meat. They pay with EBT while I pay with cash…

OmahaConservative on February 17, 2014 at 4:55 PM

You ain’t the only one. I’m deep in a blue city and feel like I’m the odd one that still pays with my own earnings. Oh well, won’t be to much longer and I’ll be in the gulch full time.

P. Logan on February 17, 2014 at 5:03 PM

the magical infinite EBT card…welfare queens eating steaks? What is it, 1988?

tlynch001 on February 17, 2014 at 5:30 PM

Regarding the EBT cards, the newest fraud to the system is “cash back”. You’re allowed up to $100 cash back from a transaction. So if you have $400 on the EBT card, you go to the supermarket and buy four packs of gum or mints in four separate transactions. The cashier rings one up for $1, the customer asks from $99 back. They do that four times, and the customer walks out with four packs of gum and $396 in cash to do with whatever they wish. Happens a lot. And the cashier or store can’t do a darn thing about it.

TrubadorMike on February 17, 2014 at 5:28 PM

What the what?

Midas on February 17, 2014 at 5:34 PM

I’m doing all my shopping at the farmer’s market these days.

tlynch001 on February 17, 2014 at 5:34 PM

Have you noticed that no one talks about the price of gasoline now that we have a Democratic in the White House? Gas prices shot up and pretty much just stayed high. Not a peep.

slickwillie2001 on February 17, 2014 at 5:34 PM

butch on February 17, 2014 at 3:37 PM

Thanks for the bacon and pastrami links! Much appreciated!!

PatriotGal2257 on February 17, 2014 at 5:34 PM

the magical infinite EBT card…welfare queens eating steaks? What is it, 1988?

tlynch001 on February 17, 2014 at 5:30 PM

It’s 2014 and we have a record number of people on food stamps.

CWchangedhisNicagain on February 17, 2014 at 5:44 PM

I’m doing all my shopping at the farmer’s market these days.

tlynch001 on February 17, 2014 at 5:34 PM

We do that as well. We have a group of people who chip in to buy in bulk twice a month and we get a laundry basket full of different produce for $20 a basket. Great deal, and you get to support local farmers as well (if you choose to; some of the produce is not local). Win-win!

xNavigator on February 17, 2014 at 5:45 PM

If you have a few acres raise your own beef with a small breed like a Dexter. Saves time and money since you’re not cutting the lawn too, they do it for you and convert it into T-bone.

moo on February 17, 2014 at 5:55 PM

TrubadorMike on February 17, 2014 at 5:28 PM

True. I hope all here read this.

Bmore on February 17, 2014 at 6:06 PM

TrubadorMike on February 17, 2014 at 5:28 PM

True. I hope all here read this.

Bmore on February 17, 2014 at 6:06 PM

Read it twice. If I read it again, my blood pressure will be off the charts.

PatriotGal2257 on February 17, 2014 at 6:59 PM

Regarding the EBT cards, the newest fraud to the system is “cash back”. You’re allowed up to $100 cash back from a transaction. So if you have $400 on the EBT card, you go to the supermarket and buy four packs of gum or mints in four separate transactions. The cashier rings one up for $1, the customer asks from $99 back. They do that four times, and the customer walks out with four packs of gum and $396 in cash to do with whatever they wish. Happens a lot. And the cashier or store can’t do a darn thing about it.

TrubadorMike on February 17, 2014 at 5:28 PM

Great.

Another way to cheat we used to see alot:
Grifter walks into 7-11 or Convenience store. Buys about $50 dollars worth of cans of soda. Walks outside. Opens all the sodas and dumps them out in the parking lot. Walk back in with empty cans. Get the 5 cent deposit on each can. Then use the cash to buy beer.

portlandon on February 17, 2014 at 7:02 PM

You know, this is not just with hamburger and bacon that prices are shooting up. I make a pretty good living and am at the age where I can opt for prime beef. Can anyone say $24/lb for a rib eye steak? A couple of years ago it was $10/lb for the same steak.

And it’s not only food. I take insulin. Going through my medical expenses from last year I noticed I paid $268 for a five pack of Novolog pen fill cartridges in February 2013. The same ones I paid $316 for last week.

Can’t wait to see what happens when inflation gets started.

NOMOBO on February 17, 2014 at 7:06 PM

Regarding the EBT cards, the newest fraud to myth about the system is “cash back”.

This is a perfect example of the Big Lie, which is recycled, often with a slight variation or two, over and over on “conservative” sites.

The truth is this: You cannot legally get one cent of cash from SNAP (the program formerly known as Food Stamps) benefits.

corona79 on February 17, 2014 at 7:45 PM

This is a perfect example of the Big Lie, which is recycled, often with a slight variation or two, over and over on “conservative” sites.

The truth is this: You cannot legally get one cent of cash from SNAP (the program formerly known as Food Stamps) benefits.

corona79 on February 17, 2014 at 7:45 PM

Prove it…

OmahaConservative on February 17, 2014 at 7:50 PM

I live out in the country, and I produce my own pork and poultry products. The cost of feed has risen some 35% in the last 4 years. Chicken scratch was $8.50 per 50 pound sack in 2010. It is now $11.50. Same for hog finisher and feed corn. Add the rising cost of fuel that it takes to get meat and eggs to market, and there you have it. I am lucky that I have all the eggs I can eat, and even have plenty that I sell to various neighbors and folks in town. I see the prices of chicken, eggs and pork and I cringe, but thank the lord that I raise my own. Beef is worse, and much more expensive to raise, as well. Until such time as we quit with the ethanol diversion of our corn crops, and start drilling and approve the Keystone Pipeline, we will continue to get screwed at the market. The reason that our cattle herds are at record low levels, is that the ranchers cannot bear the cost of feed. Simple as that, folks. Thanks, libiots.

bimmcorp on February 17, 2014 at 8:13 PM

I knew some fool would take the bait.

Prove it ain’t the truth.

Learn the difference between SNAP and TANF, what EBT has to do with it, then apologize. Otherwise, STFU.

corona79 on February 17, 2014 at 8:13 PM

Prove it…

OmahaConservative on February 17, 2014 at 7:50 PM

As a former recipient of SNAP (Food Stamps) when I was homeless, jobless, and rather hungry (nearly 4 years ago now) it is both illegal and impossible to get cash from a food stamp card.

Period.

TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) DOES give cash benefits.

BOTH programs are administered by direct deposit into a debit-card like EBT (Electronic Benefits Transaction) card on either the 1st or 15th of every month (varies by state and program). Why? Because it is a HELL of a lot cheaper than printing paper checks for one program, and paper stamp coupons for another (as used to be the case) or creating two different cards. And I (as a tax-paying productive member of society) damn well demand government be good stewards of the money I send them.

Two Different Programs.
Same Card.
Got It?

The difference is similar to swiping a bank/check card and seeing credit or debit:

Credit runs the transaction as a credit card transaction and does NOT give the option of “Cash Back”
Debit DOES give the option of “Cash Back”.

As someone who was once down on his luck in this crappy economy I won’t sit here and pretend fraud doesn’t exist. At one point I worked at a Wal-Mart and quite REGULARLY saw the “expensive food/meat cuts/prepackaged garbage with EBT while non-welfare bought within their means”. Usually twice a day at least.

However the old “cash from a food stamp card” story is just that-a story. Period.

SgtSVJones on February 17, 2014 at 8:39 PM

I believe that the government excludes both food and fuel from their inflation calculations.

But increases in fuel prices directly affects the cost of food. It’s a double whammy.

But I imagine that the government figures are correct as long as you exclude two of the largest items in a family budget.

I would suppose that the government considers people like me as moderately wealthy, which is true if you exclude the spending side of my budget.

Oh, oh, I just figured my taxes. they must have heard me.

schmuck281 on February 17, 2014 at 9:41 PM

Somehow my comment isn’t getting up here. Curious…

xNavigator on February 17, 2014 at 11:14 PM

Let’s try to post this again:

It is illegal to get cash from SNAP, but it is NOT impossible. Kevin Williamson, National Review, writing about Owsley County, KY:

…it turns out that the local economy runs on black-market soda the way Baghdad ran on contraband crude during the days of sanctions.

It works like this: Once a month, the debit-card accounts of those receiving what we still call food stamps are credited with a few hundred dollars — about $500 for a family of four, on average — which are immediately converted into a unit of exchange, in this case cases of soda. On the day when accounts are credited, local establishments accepting EBT cards — and all across the Big White Ghetto, “We Accept Food Stamps” is the new E pluribus unum – are swamped with locals using their public benefits to buy cases and cases — reports put the number at 30 to 40 cases for some buyers — of soda. Those cases of soda then either go on to another retailer, who buys them at 50 cents on the dollar, in effect laundering those $500 in monthly benefits into $250 in cash — a considerably worse rate than your typical organized-crime money launderer offers

Proof. It happens.

xNavigator on February 17, 2014 at 11:15 PM

The point that myself and another commentator were making was you CANNOT get cash directly from a SNAP benefits card.

I never said such very fraudulent ways of getting money as you & others have posted don’t exist.

SgtSVJones on February 17, 2014 at 11:42 PM

This is what happens when you force people to put a whole bunch of corn (i.e. foodstuff for animals) into their gas tanks. It drives up the cost of corn which drives up the cost of meat. This will continue unabated until we remove the ethanol mandate.

Theophile on February 18, 2014 at 2:15 AM

Pathetic - the Big Lie is exposed, and then, the promoters change the subject … common among the Irritable Climate Syndrome crowd, and as we see here, the Food Stamps for Cash mob.

corona79 on February 18, 2014 at 8:18 AM

the self-perceived royalty in the WH blatantly lied, but then he’s blaaaack and all his voters thing he can do no wrong. He is killing the middle class and the poor. Can’t even buy food anymore. He is the worst thing that ever happened to our republic….. thanks liberals, and a special thanks to the several million republicans that sat on their butts and didn’t vote. Your fault, most of all.

ultracon on February 18, 2014 at 9:07 AM

Where is the discussion of supply and demand? As I see it, the free market is working as one should expect. Higher food prices is not a function of low wages, it is an indication of scarcity.

For example, we are BURNING our food for fuel. That means that the price of corn is elevated and that includes feed corn that is fed to livestock. We are also competing with a more prosperous third world who are adding to the demand for more of the food we produce. Mr. Market is doing his job. Government policies are creating scarcity and the price signals are flashing the appropriate messages.

MJBrutus on February 18, 2014 at 9:22 AM

I am the primary grocery shopper in my family. There are items I buy regularly each week & each month. I definitely have noticed the prices rise over the past 2 years.

Bacon? Crazy price increases. Sorry, family, but I don’t buy it regularly. Milk? I suck it up and see who puts it on sale. Bread? Ditto. Meats? What I cook depends upon what is on sale.

When our betters in gov’t tell us there is no inflation, it makes my head want to explode. YES! There is inflation in food prices. I see it every time I am in the store.

ConservativeMom on February 17, 2014 at 2:55 PM

Likewise, I’m very tuned into food prices, have been for many years. So you can imagine my shock when just yesterday I bought some packages of ground beef at Trader Joes. It’s been $2.69/pound for ages now, a real bargain compared to other markets. I would have understood if it went up in price a little, but the new price is now $3.99! Each little package had the old price blacked out, and the new price had a label stuck on.

This price is STILL lower than other market prices, because all of them have raised theirs, too. So something has happened, I don’t know exactly what.

ncinca on February 18, 2014 at 10:24 AM

This price is STILL lower than other market prices, because all of them have raised theirs, too. So something has happened, I don’t know exactly what.

It’s called the collapse of the Petro-dollar…China, Russia, Brazil, India, etc…are starting to trade in currency other than the standard reserve currency of the dollar, and in addition, China, Japan, etc are stopping their purchases of US Treasuries, while the Fed is “tapering” their Bond purchases.

As this trend picks up, watch out…because the dollar will ultimately become worthless and inflation will become hyper-inflation…

Bacon will be $30.00/lb…

PatriotRider on February 18, 2014 at 10:42 AM

PatriotRider on February 18, 2014 at 10:42 AM

It goes beyond the feckless monetary policy of the Fed / Obama Administration.

There’s the tax policy – and that the US remains with one of the highest corporate tax rates.

Then there’s the Administration’s excessive regulatory overhead which adds billions in costs across multiple industries.

Add to this the Administration’s feckless energy policies – not only regarding ethanol which directly contributes to higher food prices, but also keeps fuel prices higher which contributes to higher costs which need to be covered.

How about the clueless environmental policies of the Administration – like the one’s which have led to tens of thousands of prime agricultural land in California to lie fallow because of lack of water. Water that is being diverted and pumped into the Pacific in order to protect a bait fish that may or may not be endangered.

With the main interest of this Administration in ‘social justice’, ‘fairness’, and ‘wealth redistribution’, we’re also seeing farms bills that are paying farmers not to plant – or minimum wage hikes being called for that will increase costs associated with agriculture / food processing – costs that need to get passed onto the consumers.

The Administration is patting itself on the back because inflation is ‘low’. That claim is about as vapid as the claims that unemployment is down significantly, when the labor participation rate hovers around 35-36 year lows.

To this Administration, reality is what they say it is… and they utterly refuse to accept cause / effect / consequences for their efforts to centrally manage the economy.

Athos on February 18, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Can anyone say $24/lb for a rib eye steak? A couple of years ago it was $10/lb for the same steak.
NOMOBO on February 17, 2014 at 7:06 PM

Haven’t seen that kind of price yet – in Colorado anyway.
Good quality T-bone and ribeye steaks run about $10 to $12 / pound in the regular grocery stores, Walmart included, but I get mine at Sam’s Club for about $7.99 /pound (as of last week).

dentarthurdent on February 18, 2014 at 11:08 AM

The only $3 bacon I can imagine is the Michelle Bacon–you know, the low sodium stuff. It’s packaged to look exactly like real bacon so it “nudges” you to buy it.

It is foul, inedible. I wrote an angry letter to the company to complain.

PattyJ on February 18, 2014 at 11:20 AM

PattyJ on February 18, 2014 at 11:20 AM

Can’t stand the taste of most of the stuff that’s labeled as “healthy” or such.
Bought a can of Campbell’s Healthy Choice chicken noodle soup when my wife was sick last month – tasted horrible – neither one of us could eat it.

dentarthurdent on February 18, 2014 at 11:25 AM

Athos on February 18, 2014 at 11:00 AM

No argument here…I was just taking a narrow view of debt and inflation…

PatriotRider on February 18, 2014 at 11:35 AM

If the government says there’s no inflation, then why isn’t the minimum wage good enough now as it was the last time they raised it?

patechinois on February 18, 2014 at 11:45 AM

Good quality T-bone and ribeye steaks run about $10 to $12 / pound in the regular grocery stores, Walmart included, but I get mine at Sam’s Club for about $7.99 /pound (as of last week).

dentarthurdent on February 18, 2014 at 11:08 AM

dentarthurdent,

That is most likely for USDA Choice. I doubt Walmart even carries USDA Prime, and Sam’s Club at $7.99/lb is definitely not USDA Prime. I did, however, find USDA Prime ribeye steak last night at Costco for $15.99/lb, a real bargain. But it only comes packaged 4 huge steaks per pack, and that package was $85.00.

NOMOBO on February 18, 2014 at 12:08 PM

That is most likely for USDA Choice. I doubt Walmart even carries USDA Prime, and Sam’s Club at $7.99/lb is definitely not USDA Prime. I did, however, find USDA Prime ribeye steak last night at Costco for $15.99/lb, a real bargain. But it only comes packaged 4 huge steaks per pack, and that package was $85.00.

NOMOBO on February 18, 2014 at 12:08 PM

I don’t buy the highest priced stuff – never thought the extra money was worth it – especially since I’m buying it with my own hard earned cash and not an EBT card….
But no detectable difference to me once I’m done marinating and grilling.

dentarthurdent on February 18, 2014 at 12:21 PM

I don’t remember the last time I bought a real steak. And I used to buy them regularly.

Chicken, pork, ground beef (my son won’t eat ground turkey) and sometimes stew beef in the slow cooker. Whatever’s on sale. And I eat my own home cooking every night.

ncinca on February 18, 2014 at 1:23 PM

I don’t buy the highest priced stuff – never thought the extra money was worth it – especially since I’m buying it with my own hard earned cash and not an EBT card….
But no detectable difference to me once I’m done marinating and grilling.

dentarthurdent on February 18, 2014 at 12:21 PM

Weird thing about Texas, the beef here is horrible and can be used for shoe leather. The only way to get an edible piece of meat, no matter how much lipstick you put on the pig, is to get USDA Prime. I don’t remember this problem in California in the past.

NOMOBO on February 18, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Weird thing about Texas, the beef here is horrible and can be used for shoe leather. The only way to get an edible piece of meat, no matter how much lipstick you put on the pig, is to get USDA Prime. I don’t remember this problem in California in the past.

NOMOBO on February 18, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Maybe what we get in Colorado is different.
But having grown up on cheaper meats and home grown garden veggies (my family was lower middle class in maine and our steak dinners consisted of those wide thin flat ones with the little round bone in it broiled to well-done in the oven wth no marinating and no spices), so the 1 inch thick t-bones I get at Sam’s for $7.99/lb are pretty darn good to me. (I marinate for awhile in Worcestershire sauce and sprinkle them with cajun spices)

Do you really put lipstick on your pig when you roast it?
How’s that taste?
/
;)

dentarthurdent on February 18, 2014 at 1:53 PM

Do you really put lipstick on your pig when you roast it?
How’s that taste?
/
;)

dentarthurdent on February 18, 2014 at 1:53 PM

Of course! Learned that in cooking school. Makes it taste like chicken.

Your childhood reminds me of mine. My dad worked in the deli industry, but could not even afford the better deli foods. He brought home skirt steak by the box and Mom broiled it to death. Had to sharpen the steak knives before dinner every night. But I never complained and I cleaned my plate.

NOMOBO on February 18, 2014 at 1:57 PM

Your childhood reminds me of mine. My dad worked in the deli industry, but could not even afford the better deli foods. He brought home skirt steak by the box and Mom broiled it to death. Had to sharpen the steak knives before dinner every night. But I never complained and I cleaned my plate.

NOMOBO on February 18, 2014 at 1:57 PM

Why on earth would you want your pork to taste like chicken?/ ;)

Well, my dad was a gubmint weather observer – retired as a GS-9 (not very high on the pay scale) after 31 years (around 1982 or so).
On the bright side, being in Maine 1/2 mile from the beach, local lobster and fish was cheap, and I caught a lot of fish free right off the shoreline. And we had lots of small farms around us where I worked as a kid, so we got other stuff free or cheap.

dentarthurdent on February 18, 2014 at 2:09 PM

I suppose it is too late to note that for meaningful statistics, you use a bigger basket of goods to make a determination of “food inflation.” Report picks chicken, ground beef and bacon and notes their rises. But the CPI food category tracks mor than those three items.
In case you were wondering, here is what the BLS had to say about food prices in the most recent report (12/2013):

The index for food rose 1.1 percent in 2013 following a 1.8 percent increase in 2012. Aside from a decline in 2009, this is its smallest December-to-December increase since 1976. The index for food at home, which rose 1.3 percent in 2012, increased 0.4 percent in 2013. Four of the six major grocery store food group indexes declined in 2013; the nonalcoholic beverages index posted the largest decrease, falling 1.4 percent. The only major grocery store food group indexes to rise were the indexes for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs, which increased 2.9 percent, and for cereals and bakery products, which advanced 0.5 percent. The index for food away from home rose 2.1 percent in 2013, a modest deceleration from the 2012 increase of 2.5 percent. Over the last ten years, the food index has risen at an average annual rate of 2.6 percent.

The list of items included in determining the basket of goods that is used in determining food inflation includes approximately 200 items including, but not limited to: flour, breakfast cereal, rice, pasta, bread, cakes, crackers, frozen bakery goods, uncooked beef roasts, uncooked beef, uncooked beef steak, bacon, pork chops, ham, other meats, fresh whole chicken frozen chicken wings, frozen chicken breasts, fresh fish, processed fish, eggs, milk, fresh fruit, frozen concentrated orange juice, etc.
So it is pretty stupid to pick out 3 items and declare that the government is deceiving the public about the food CPI

New_Jersey_Buckeye on February 19, 2014 at 12:00 AM

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