Standing Up For Equality In All Its Forms

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labour anne-marie-291x300

From top: Screenshot from a new Labour social media ad campaign; Anne-Marie McNally

Rejoice.

We have introduced marriage equality into a desperately unequal society.

Anne Marie McNally writes:

At the moment the Labour party have a Facebook ad campaign running through people’s newsfeeds called ‘Standing Up For Equality.’

The ad shows a young same-sex female couple and their young children happily facing into an Ireland where they are treated as equals.

Could the Labour party run the same tagline ‘Standing Up For Equality’ with the same couple, or any couple, walking out their front door and facing into the Ireland that is now the most unequal country in the EU in terms of how income is distributed in the economy?

The most recent budget simply served to consolidate that income inequality and entrench the ‘them and us’ mind-set that is so pervasive in Irish society. There can be no doubt that income inequality and social deprivation leads to a disenfranchising of large cohorts of the population with the resulting social ills manifesting in a variety of ways.

Eric Uslaner, a prominent political scientist said, “Trust cannot thrive in an unequal world” and ultimately income equality is the prime mover of trust. Indeed Emile Durkheim, commonly considered as the father of sociology, identified that suicide rates were impacted by how well people felt integrated into society.

Here in Ireland, we presently have one of the highest rates of suicide for both youths and adults across the EU.

Almost all academic findings point to the fact that in societies where wealth is more evenly distributed, the health of that society is simply better overall. The sense of social cohesion and a feeling of ‘being in this together’ promotes integration and shared experiences and thus, reduces everything from health problems to crime levels.

In an unequal society the emphasis tends to be on domination and the attainment of power as opposed to those more equal societies where the common good and shared experiences are valued. Japan and the Scandinavian countries for example have a situation where the richest 20% in society are less than four times richer than the poorest 20%. Keep those figures in mind then look at the social indicators in those countries.

The educational outcomes, their mental well-being indicators and even their life expectancy rates are higher. Their crime rates and prison populations are lower. To cut a long story short – they’ve gotten it right.

In an Ireland of ever increasing inequality it seems somewhat hollow to pat ourselves so firmly on the back for delivering marriage equality whilst ignoring those struggling at the bottom end of an ever-increasing wealth divide.

There are ways to address this inequality in the same way we bravely addressed marriage equality – look the inequality square in the eye and say ‘enough’.

If we reduce the cost of living then we automatically increase the disposable income in a person’s pocket. But how do we decrease the cost of living in a dynamic capitalist model?

A country where the powerful top 20% of earners have the lobbying power to insist on tax-cutting measures that benefit their sheltered and comfortable existence whilst those of us on the other end of the spectrum bear the brunt of those same tax cuts in terms of public spending.

The answer is simple – you reduce the cost of living by funding and investing in the services that people need to live a healthy dignified life – healthcare, education, social protection, childcare, older care. The security that comes from knowing the State has your back in times of trouble in and of itself creates social harmony and mental well-being.

Public Services should not be reduced to bare commodities that are the preserve of those who can afford them but should rather be acknowledged as a social good for the benefit of all, equally.

The founder of the NHS in the UK, Aneurin Bevan famously said “no society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.” The same premise applies for all fundamental public services.

So it’s my bet that the lovely couple in the Labour ad favour equality in all its forms and realise that they’d do far better if Labour, and every other party, really would ‘Stand Up For Equality.’

Anne-Marie McNally is a political and media strategist working with Catherine Murphy TD and will be a candidate for the Social Democrats in the forthcoming General Election. Follow Anne-Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally

73 thoughts on “Standing Up For Equality In All Its Forms

  1. Owen C

    The electorate has continually voted for whichever party offers them the lowest tax burden. This is an empirical fact. People, rightly or wrongly, prefer the idea of having more disposable income rather than more public services. Some of this stems from a widespread belief, again rightly or wrongly, that public services are delivered in an expensive and inefficient manner much of the time, and that therefore people would prefer to spend the money themselves rather than have the government spend it in order to deliver these services. If the Social Democrats wish to pursue an election strategy based around raising taxes significantly to fund greater public sector investment, than more power to them, but my guess is it will not be a particularly successful strategy with the electorate.

    1. Neilo

      A government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.

      1. ahjayzis

        A government small enough to satisfy Randians leaves children digging through bins for food, old people dying younger, health problems festering and generally more suffering for the many and feudal lordship for the oligarchs.

        Sweden and Denmark are hardly totalitarian hellscapes. America on the other hand has the highest prison population in the world, outlandish crime rates and poverty seen nowhere else in the western world.

        Your vision for society is abjectly miserable. Your unfounded paranoid fear that looking after people leads to a police state would have you happily condemn people to suffer.

          1. ahjayzis

            But what’s an excess? Universal healthcare? Free primary education? State-funded childcare? Provision of social housing?

            Making people healthy, educated, housed and out of poverty should be a basic, not an excess.

          2. ahjayzis

            The forfeiting of billions in taxation through a hilariously tokenistic corporation tax rate isn’t an excess? An outsized benefit-in-kind to companies in lieu of legitimate social benefits to citizens is an excess I could live without.

          3. Neilo

            Universal healthcare insurance struck down by the government today as uneconomical for the foreseeable future: if the cost was manageable, maybe it could fly. Free primary education: I know ‘voluntary’ contributions are woeful shakedowns so I agree with you there. State-funded childcare: could be addressed through proper tax credits and more take-home pay for the slightly better-off but I have no beef with assisted costs in areas of social/financial deprivation as early years intervention is a powerful investment in the future. Provision of social housing: expensive to provide and maintain but it is needed in the context of recent events in the rented sector. Tenants must be offered the right-to-buy.

            I’ve remarked on other threads that I’m happy with a good measure of social provision but benchmarking and unlimited public sector recruitment – and these will return, I’m sure we agree on that – don’t strike me as anything other than more snouts in the trough.

          4. rotide

            Why is state funded childcare always such a hot topic? Above things like state funded care and pensions etc?

          5. ahjayzis

            Re the tax credit thing for child care – is it not obvious that’s the least efficient way to manage it? I mean why don’t we pay increased tax credits to fund privately funded police forces? Housing estates could gang up and hire their own garda car and securty men. Why don’t we all pay from our increased pay packets for autonomous local hospitals/schools? Because it’s cheaper, more efficient, fairer, more regulated and safe to fund and manage centrally. I don’t know why you see childcare as the black sheep. It is a complete necessity.

            Social tenants *do* have the right to buy – the right to buy any of the tens of thousands of privately owned for-sale homes on the market – why would we flog social housing we spent hundreds of thousands building for a discount? Why should social tenants (who obviously no longer need it if they can access a mortgage) have a right to take that house off the housing authority and out of the pool of social housing but I can’t force my landlord to sell me mine? What else do you want to sell at a loss that we’ve all contributed to building and why? Because it’s a tenet of faith that it is unqualified evil for society as a whole to own and run anything for the benefit of society and thus diddling plutocrats out of a dividend?

          6. Neilo

            @ahjayzis: the nation state’s main responsibility is its defence and security: privatisation is a non-starter here.

            In relation to childcare, heavy government involvement chills me a little. If the employees of these facilities are de facto government employees, they’ll enjoy featherbedded protections. I haven’t heard of any of the oxygen thieves involved in the Aras Attracta or Leas Cross abuses being jailed although I understand there are prosecutions afoot in the case of Aras Attracta.

            Good to know that the right to buy is widely available: I’m a fan of this and I would agree that the social housing stock should not be allowed wither on the vine.

            I think we’re more simpatico than it may first appear?

          7. ahjayzis

            Defense, security, health and prosperity – it’s the 21st century, we can add a few priorities.

            Like it or not it’s a fact of life that most families need two parents working, it’s a necessity of modern life. Right now it’s completely unregulated, small sole traders completely unsupervised, mostly untaxed, costing the equivalent of a mortgage payment a month. No amount of a tax giveaway is going to soften that blow much. But pooling that tax take into a subsidised childcare system is a no-brainer.

            We can quibble over public servants and ideology another time – a subsidized, centralised model could still be farmed out to private childcare facilities if that’s what’s worrying you. But we need a formalised, regulated, subsidised system and we need it now. At one stage secondary education was as haphazard, expensive and unstandardised as childcare is now, until we realised we needed it just as much as primary education.

            On right to buy – I don’t understand you – of course social tenants are free to buy a house that’s for sale if they can afford it like anyone else? My point is they should have no automatic right to force the state to sell them the *social house* – it belongs to us, for people who need it.

        1. Neilo

          @ahjayzis: it’s not that I can’t be dissuaded from my views on childcare – yours are every bit as cogent and logical as I’d expect – it’s just that I worry very much about the viability of further government intervention in this area. Perhaps a new Donough O’Malley will appear to square the circle? I agree, again, that it is ruinously expensive for families.

          In terms of social housing, where tenants are seeking right-to-buy in their own area I do wonder if there’s an affordability issue? People of modest means might stretch to covering the nut in their own neighbourhood but fall short elsewhere and this could be an inhibiting factor in terms of social mobility. Do housing associations play a role in this? I’m not as well up on this stuff as I’d like. I wouldn’t be overly enamoured of any further reduction in holdings of housing stock and. again, we find ourselves on the same side there.

          Fantastic chat, by the way, but maybe I should stick to lame wordplay and my role in the Reserve Fashion Police.

      2. MoyestWithExcitement

        “The electorate has continually voted for whichever party offers them the lowest tax burden. This is an empirical fact.”

        Empirical fact? I don’t recall anyone asking me my motivations for voting the way I did last time, or ever. Perhaps there was a questionnaire on the other side of the ballot paper. Anyone?

        “my guess is it will not be a particularly successful strategy with the electorate.”

        You mean, you believe in right wing economics so everyone else must do as well.

    2. donal

      True Owen, but the SD’s aren’t necessarily proposing taxing more, they’re proposing taxing better. Look at their alternative budget proposal. It’s not aimed at raising tax rates on the majority of working people, but at spending the revenue raised on things that are more beneficial to society overall.

      1. donal

        A sample of their sensible thinking (from http://socialdemocrats.ie/2015/10/5-reasons-this-budget-is-not-just-irresponsible-its-dangerous/ )

        “In theory, a rate of 51pc kicks in once any of us earn €33,800. But not in reality. Tax credits mean that for a single PAYE worker, the higher rate kicks in at about €42,000. For a married, one-income household with a 10pc pension contribution, it’s at over €62,000. So for the single person earning €50,000, or the married person earning €70,000, reducing the rate from 51pc to, say, 44pc (full abolition of the USC), would be worth just €560 a year.
        So for the Government’s big idea to work, there’d have to be loads of people refusing jobs on €50,000 to €70,000 and higher, because they object so strongly to paying that €560. This, clearly, is complete nonsense. And yet it’s a cornerstone of Fine Gael/Labour fiscal policy.”

        1. Owen C

          Going through the SocDem’s budget proposal, comments below, responses welcome:

          1. A 50mm levy on AIB. No real problem with it, but it will reduce down the value of AIB by a similar annuitised amount, so this is robbing Peter to pay Paul. We’re trying to flog 25% of it next year, remember.
          2. Junk food levy. Again, no real problem with this, but doesn’t say how much this would add to the average chocolate bar or whatever. Its somewhat vague. They also want to add 10c to a pint of beer. Doubt this will be a vote getter, and its just a straight forward excise increase. Nothing particularly “taxing better” about this.
          3. Pension fund cap is low on detail, so the 120mm seems high when the introduction of the previous cap at 2.3mn in 2011 was only expected to yield 50mm in a full year. So I’d like to see the maths on this. The policy makes sense, I just doubt the tax yield is anywhere near that high.
          4. Increase focus on shadow economy and levy on bonds and other financial instruments are both examples of areas which are either guesswork or where the SocDems have admitted it may not be practically possible.

          1. Neilo

            Pensions are taxed to the bolleaux already but I do like the fact that the SDs are trying to get their figures right.

          2. Neilo

            Re your point 4, Owen, my spouse works in the shadow banking industry (bonds, transfer agency etc.) and a levy on bonds and financial intstruments would cause every employer in this sector to exit to more friendly jurisdictions like Holland and Luxembourg. A proposed transaction tax is a casus belli in the forthcoming UK referendum on the EU.

          3. Owen C

            Neilo, I am likewise employed, I agree with your wife, and that’s why i suggested it was almost certainly not practical. In fairness to the SD’s they say it wouldn’t impact on institutional investors, but they therefore seem to be suggesting a 50mm levy on retail investors of bonds in a negative rate environment? This is fantastical bordering on stupid, the more I think about it. Not a hope in hell. There also doesn’t seem to be any reason why they are targetting bonds (why not property, equities, other investments?), other than perhaps a hope that people still view bond holders as evil v-a-v the whole banking sector collapse.

          4. donal

            I’m not an expert on the financial sector, I can’t respond meaningfully to your points.
            My point was that the current gov are attempting to buy the elcetion with promises of reduced personal taxation based on ridiculous notions that marginal rates are a disincentive to work. They are not. Would we like them to be lower? Perhaps. But personally I would prefer the monies raised to be wisely spent on childcare and education, things that will assist our society in 10/15/20 years, rather than on policies that will simply help the government be re-elected. The country needs proper longer term strategic thinking, the next election cannot be the only target that successive governments have in mind.

        2. Anne

          “In theory, a rate of 51pc kicks in once any of us earn €33,800. But not in reality. Tax credits mean that for a single PAYE worker, the higher rate kicks in at about €42,000.

          Can someone explains the maths of that to me please?
          Tax credit for a single/PAYE worker is 3,300 PA.
          Just curious as to how that makes it 42k, before the higher rate kicks in.

          Anne-Marie? Anyone?

    3. Neilo

      I can’t believe I’m saying this again: equality of opportunity is the ideal, equality of outcome is the race to the bottom of the public purse. No one ever escaped to a Socialist Paradise in a hot air balloon *Well aware that I could fill any balloon with all the hot air I spout here*

      1. donal

        Equality of opportunity is important, but I don’t see equality of opportunity when there has never been a proper effort to prosecute white collar crime. I’d be rightly pissed off if as a business owner I was losing out to people who were not better at business, but better at sucking up to government and who get away with breaking the rules. Think of a certain beef baron from back in the day. The links between the higher echelons of the political sphere and the business sphere mean there isn’t equality of opportunity. Only yesterday the governments own watchdog stated that the government had capitulated to special interests in legal services reform. This consistently happens in Ireland, it is not equality of opportunity, and I believe the politicians who lead the SD’s have a proven track record of being committed to changing this.

        1. Neilo

          It’s why I hold equality of opportunity as an ideal in Ireland: the realization that we’re still nowhere near achieving same.

        2. rotide

          There would be many that would argue sucking up to government IS being better at business. It’s when it enters the domain of brown paper envelopes problems arise.

          1. Neilo

            Indeed, the dark arts of lobbying are an effective business too, rotide. Baksheesh is where the wheels come off the wagon.

          2. donal

            Differing views on good business practice, fair enough. But the brown paper envelope givers and takers have rarely been prosecuted either, so the distinction between allowed and disallowed behaviour is blurred and thus boundaries are pushed

      2. Neilo

        @OwenC: yeah, I agree that it’s probably a rhetorical description. Of course, the role in the collapse played by ludicrously high public spending – benchmarking, anyone? – without all that sweet property bubble cash isn’t as ‘sexy’ in electioneering terms.

  2. TG

    Why not, ‘Standing Up To Tackle Homelessness’? or ‘Standing Up To Tackle Unemployment’? or ‘Standing Up To Tackle The HSE Trolley Crisis’? Why won’t any of the political parties stand up for these on a Facebook page and put it into action?

        1. Kieran NYC

          That’s a tired trope. Net migration has slowed to a trickle and the numbers in employment are increasing.

          1. donal

            Anomanomanom didn’t say “are leaving”, he said had left already. There is increased mployment, there is not a huge return of people who left

          2. Owen C

            “there is not a huge return of people who left”

            Emigration figures, Irish nationals, per annum, year to April of each year:
            2010 29k
            2011 42k
            2012 47k
            2013 51k
            2014 41k
            Total in these five years = 210k

            Immigration figures, per annum, year to April of each year:
            2011 20k
            2012 21k
            2013 16k
            2014 12k
            2015 12k
            Total in these five years = 81k.

            I’ve used a 1 year lag between emigration vs immigration to allow for the idea of people who left may come back (ie immigration in 2010 cant be the same people who left in 2010 obviously!). 210k Irish nationals left, 81k have arrived. These may not be the same people obviously, but essentially 40% of those that went have come back. That’s a fairly large number considering whats gone on with the economy during the crisis.

          3. donal

            So 129k have not returned.
            The total number of unemployed, according to CSO ( http://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/er/qnhs/quarterlynationalhouseholdsurveyquarter32015/ ) is 203k.
            Yes, employment is up, and that is positive, but without the ability to (relatively easily, compared to perhaps Syrians) migrate there could be 332k unemployed in the state. A rate of 14.5%.
            I know that there is a whole lot of ifs buts and maybes in there, but it’s as easy to massage the figures negatively as positively. Of course the government are going to push the headline rate as proof of their success, and no-one can prove that alternative policies would have been better, but it’s nice to highlight where the propaganda is.

      1. panga

        massaged figures by pushing people into meaningless courses therefore taking them off unemployment register

      2. 15 cents

        simpy having employment isnt enough .. people who like to chuck around the percentage (in the current case, i think about 10% or 11%) are hiding behind it. Its already been proven that minimum wage here, leaves you earning well below what you need for a basic livlihood. we all get taxed to bits, and only really work to serve the government.

  3. DubLoony

    Ireland’s Gini Coefficient is 31.1, we’re ranked 20th in Europe, behind the Nordic and wealthier countries, ahead of Mediterranean and Eastern European countries.
    http://www.publicpolicy.ie/income-inequality-ireland-2/

    Services for all need a stable tax base, like property tax and water charges that SDs want to reduce or abolish.
    Labour have introduced more reforms in education than many realise.
    In housing 3.8 billion has been allocated for social housing. It takes time to locate sites, but plans in place, obtain permission and get shovels in the ground but that will happen.
    Unemployment now down to 8.9% and will continue to drop as construction sector ramps up.

  4. Paudi O'Shea

    Fine, I’ll bite… “Ireland that is now the most unequal country in the EU in terms of how income is distributed in the economy” is just not true.

    The latest OECD data indicates that Ireland already has the most progressive tax system of the 21 EU countries which are members of that organisation.

    The Revenue Commissioners estimate that in 2014 the top 5 per cent of income earners will pay 44 per cent of the total income tax collected and those earning €50,000 or less, which represents 77 per cent of income earners, will only pay 19 per cent of the total income tax collected. In addition, 856,000 individuals, representing approximately 39 per cent of the income tax base, will be exempt from income tax altogether.

    Source: https://www.kildarestreet.com/wrans/?id=2014-01-16a.69&s=%22progressive+tax%22+section%3Awrans#g71.r

      1. rotide

        Steady on there Karl Marx. How much is ‘that much’? All i see is percentages.

        This isn’t representative of inequality, this is just an example of how the taxation system works pretty much like how people want it to work. Those with more pay more.

        1. Anne

          “How much is ‘that much’? All i see is percentages.”

          “top 5 per cent of income earners will pay 44 per cent of the total income tax collected”

          They should probably be paying 95% of the total income tax collected.

          Again it’s only income. And the 44% total income tax collected from the top 5% indicates the inequality.

          1. rotide

            Why should they be paying 95%? If they were you’d just hold it up as an even better example of inequality.

            and no without hard figures, 44% total income take from the top 5% does not indicate inequality past the obvious dictionary definition of the term.

          2. Anne

            Since they own that much of the wealth is why..

            “44% total income take from the top 5% does not indicate inequality”

            Nor does it indicate that they’re contributing more, proportionate to their wealth.

          3. Owen C

            “They should probably be paying 95% of the total income tax collected.

            Again it’s only income. And the 44% total income tax collected from the top 5% indicates the inequality.”

            Beautifully insane logic. If they paid 100% of all income taxes, you’d consider Ireland the most unequal society on the planet. Shambolic stuff.

          4. anne

            “If they paid 100% of all income taxes, you’d consider Ireland the most unequal society on the planet”

            No I wouldn’t.
            But it would go some way in terms of a remedy to the inequality in this country.

    1. Barry the Hatchet

      1) There is a difference between market income distribution and the distribution after taxation and government spending.
      2) The oft touted OECD report only looks at income tax. Amazingly, there are actually other forms of taxation.
      3) It staggers me that you could possibly think it a positive thing that 856,000 (!) individuals are so poor they don’t even qualify to pay income tax.

      1. rotide

        Holy jumping to conclusion batman!

        Not all of those 856,000 people are ‘poor’. Their earnings dont qualify for tax. There’s a difference.

  5. J

    If SD wish to reduce the income inequality gap, then why do they not advocate tax on property? My armchair understanding of the driving forces of income inequality is capital wealth.

    1. Neilo

      Wealth at the highest levels is mobile. I think a lot of entities – private and corporate – could pay a little more. but whether they’d want to is a discussion for another day.

  6. nellyb

    Will you keep throwing money at a tradesman if (s)he shows up for an hour to have a coffee every day, do f&ck all, demands increase and then prosecutes you for not paying? That’s how our tax system really works. No disrespect to tradesman, for illustration purposes only.

  7. Hashtag McMór

    Stand up for the rights of fathers, if you’re THAT interested in equality. Of course, this is all about @labour trying to coax at least 1% more support out of the General Election, next spring.

  8. Andy

    This bit of SocDem propaganda is riddled with inaccuracies.

    Why aren’t statements of fact by published contributors required to link their sources?

    This is “leaving cert essay” quality “journalism”

    “Suicide rates”
    We are decidedly average for suicide rates:
    http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/File:Deaths_from_suicide_%E2%80%94_standardised_death_rate,_2012_(%C2%B9)_(per_100_000_inhabitants)_YB15.png
    Japan’s suicide rate is astronomical – 19.1 per 100k, Finland’s is 15.6 per 100k, Sweden’s is 11.6 per 100k, compared with Ireland’s which is 10 per 100k
    http://www.cso.ie/en/newsandevents/pressreleases/2015pressreleases/pressreleasebirthsdeathsandmarriagesin2014/

    “The educational outcomes, their mental well-being indicators and even their life expectancy rates are higher.”
    Ireland’s life expectancy is only 0.9 years behind Sweden but is 0.7 year ahead of Denmark & in line with Finland.
    https://data.oecd.org/healthstat/life-expectancy-at-birth.htm
    Reading skills of Irish students are amongst the highest in the OECD.
    Ireland has the highest number of 30-34 year olds with degrees at 52.2% in 2014 – Sweden 49.9%, Denmark 44.9%, Finland 45.3%, Norway 52.1%.
    https://www.stat.ee/57173

    “whilst ignoring those struggling at the bottom end of an ever-increasing wealth divide”
    Top 1% owned 12% pre WW11, 6% in 1970, 12% during boom, down to 10% post boom. Ever-increasing wealth divide? Any evidence to back this up?
    http://www.irishtimes.com/business/economy/da-s-capital-how-irish-wealth-is-shared-out-1.1831501

    “The answer is simple – you reduce the cost of living by funding and investing in the services that people need to live a healthy dignified life – healthcare, education, social protection, childcare, older care.”
    Eh, who pays for this? Those on higher incomes – so you increase the cost of living for them. This is the same as any FG, FF manifesto – vote for me cause I’ll give you free stuff at the expense of those who don’t vote for us.

    “A country where the powerful top 20% of earners have the lobbying power to insist on tax-cutting measures”
    Based on the latest revenue statistics, the all-powerful Top 20% includes those earning in the mid €50k’s. The fact they are all powerful might come as a surprise to them.
    https://www.kildarestreet.com/wrans/?id=2014-12-04a.186

    “The founder of the NHS in the UK, Aneurin Bevan famously said “no society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.”
    What sick person in Ireland has been denied medical aid because of a lack of means? People may have to wait, but no one is denied aid, and certainly not based on means.
    “The same premise applies for all fundamental public services.”
    What public services are people being fundamentally denied?

    “Japan and the Scandinavian countries for example have a situation where the richest 20% in society are less than four times richer than the poorest 20%.”
    Japan has been in a depression for decades.
    I’ve no problem with a Scandinavian welfare model. You are aware they drastically cut benefits for long term unemployed?
    Ireland has a more progressive taxation system than Finland
    http://www.publicpolicy.ie/is-irelands-tax-system-progressive/

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