Ron Gruner – Author of We The Presidents | How American Presidents Shaped the Last Century

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About The Guest

An accomplished entrepreneur, Ron Gruner has been a pioneer in the commercialization of corporate transparency for over twenty years.

Ron founded Shareholder.com in 1991 – and effectively invented the industry of online investor relations. Shareholder.com was purchased by The Nasdaq StockMarket in 2006 where it became the keystone for Nasdaq’s Corporate Services Group.

Today, Shareholder.com continues to be the core of Nasdaq Corporate Services’ revenues. Over 1,500 companies directly depend on the innovative products and services created by Ron and his team at Shareholder.com.

Prior to Shareholder.com, Ron served as Chief Executive Officer of Alliant Computer Systems, a supercomputer company that he co-founded in 1982. Alliant was quickly successful, going public in December 1986, with a market capitalization of nearly $500 million.

Prior to Alliant, Ron worked for thirteen years at Data General where he designed many successful computers including the Nova 1200 and Eclipse Series.

Ron currently is a founder and Chief Executive Officer of Sky Analytics, a legal services firm.

Talking Points

  • 00:00 – Intro
  • 04:06 – Ron Gruner’s Origin Story. 
  • 06:30 – Why did Ron write this book?
  • 09:52 – Why do we always repeat the same mistakes?
  • 11:31 – How do we write a better future?
  • 14:30 – Is a two-party system the only solution?
  • 15:58 – The importance of economics in history.
  • 21:32 – Protecting & supporting
  • 25:20 – Milton Friedman’s influence & impact.
  • 27:14 – Modern monetary theory and income equality.
  • 29:58 – Modern monetary theory and national debt.
  • 31:15 – The future economic state of the US.
  • 35:05 – American Presidents.
  • 37:08 – The most controversial American President.
  • 39:40 – The most hated American President.
  • 44:06 – The most overrated American President.
  • 48:52 – Will Trump run again?
  • 49:49 – Lessons from Ron Gruner’s book.
  • 51:23 – Where Do People Connect With Ron Gruner?
  • 52:34 – What Was The Biggest Challenge Of Ron Gruner’s Life And How Did He Overcome It?
  • 54:23 – Ron Gruner’s mentor.
  • 55:47 – Ron Gruner’s book or podcast recommendation.
  • 57:13 – What Would Ron Gruner tell his 20-year-old self? 
  • 58:03 – What does success mean to Run Gruner?

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On this podcast, you’ll find interviews, Q&A, keynote presentations & conversations on sales, marketing, business, startups, and entrepreneurship.

The podcast is hosted by entrepreneur, business executive, author, educator & speaker, Scott D. Clary.

Scott will discuss some of the lessons he’s learned over his own career, as well as have candid interviews with execs, celebrities, notable figures, and politicians. All who have achieved success through both wins and losses, to learn more about their life, their ideas, and insights.

He sits down with leaders and mentors and unpacks their stories to help pass those lessons onto others through both experiences and tactical strategy for business professionals, entrepreneurs, and everyone in between.

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Machine Generated Transcript

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

people, book, presidents, united states, years, company, money, president, ran, economics, called, understand, Reagan, moving, policies, shareholders, history, alliant, carter, America

SPEAKERS

Scott D Clary, Ron Gruner

 

Scott D Clary  00:00

Welcome to success story, the most useful podcast in the world. I’m your host Scott D. Clary. The success story podcast is part of the blue wire podcast network as well as the HubSpot Podcast Network. Now, the HubSpot Podcast Network has incredible shows like The Hustle daily. It’s hosted by Zachary Crockett Jacob Cohen, Rob literalist, and Juliette Bennett RYLA. Now, the hustle daily brings you a healthy dose of irreverent, offbeat and informative takes on business, tech and news. And it happens daily. So if you want to stay up to date on the latest and greatest, and some of these topics are interesting to you, then you’re going to love the hustle daily topics like Amazon’s grocery strategy. The rise of the ugly shoe economy is AI the secret to love and America’s sleep deficit problem. So if these are topics you want to get into and you love hearing up to date content whenever you wake up in the morning, go listen to the hustle daily wherever you listen to your podcast. today. My guest is Ron Gruner. He is the author of we the Presidents now we the President’s is not just another history book, you have to understand Ron’s background So Ron was chief executive of three tech companies, a lion computer shareholder, calm and sky analytics. Each of his companies were pioneers at their time in their industry. So Alliant was parallel processing shareholder calm was investor relations, Sky was illegal analytics. Each of his companies was successful. They delivered healthy financial returns. Alliant went public in 1986 shareholder.com, and sky analytics were profitably acquired by major public corporations in 2006 2015, respectively. So he’s had an incredible career as a chief executive, he faced all the challenges of a chief executive, balancing the interests of shareholders, customers, employees focusing on long term vision while executing against short term goals. He did all the CEO things. Now, he took that experience. And he wanted to write a book that it takes into history and understands the outcome of different presidents different administrations. So he wrote to the President. The book focuses on effects rather than causes on results rather than politics on economics rather than ideology. It focuses on linking presidential administrations to outcomes rather than just isolated presidencies. In the actual podcast, we spoke about some of his career success, but then we went into discussing US policy us current cultural, economic climate, through a business lens, we spoke about inflation, we spoke about, we spoke about equitable opportunity. We spoke about modern monetary theory, we spoke about the current social climate. And we spoke about past social climates past economic, economic environment, past a monetary theory to show the parallels and dichotomies between what we’re experiencing now versus what what we what you’ve experienced as a nation for the past 100 years, through different policies and different presidents have deployed. We also spoke about some of the stories behind some presidents, we spoke about most liked most hated and why we spoke about most overrated most underrated, most successful, largest failures with different presidents, different administrations, because he went into all the history he understood the personal lives of presidents, which allowed him to understand how presidents through periods of time have led to the current social economic environment that we’re currently living in and experiencing so history, policy, climate all through a business lens. It was an incredible book. It was an incredible interview. He’s an incredibly smart man, I hope you enjoy. Let’s jump right into it. This is Ronald Gruner. He is three times CEO, but most recently, the author of we the presidents.

 

Ron Gruner  04:07

Well, I’m Ron gritter, and I was born and raised in a small town in Oklahoma, called Pocket city. And pocket city was a town of about 25,000 people. It was famous at one time for the formation of continental oil companies, an oil town I grew up in Oklahoma, but in high school, I fell in love with computers. And that sounds like a strange thing to say. But that was in the early 60s In the mid 60s and computers were like black magic, then. Nobody took him for granted. And so I went about spending my whole career in computers. And to do that I had to move from Oklahoma to Massachusetts, namely Boston window. Boston was a major High Technology Center, even before Silicon Valley. So I’ve had two experiences living I grew up in Oklahoma, one of the reddest of the red states, and I spent 40 years in Boston and Massachusetts, one of the bluest of the blue states. So I’ve seen both perspectives and One of the things that has troubled me in the last few years is how divided we’ve come both as a country as friends and as family. And you know, the aspect of my two states Oklahoma being very red and and Massachusetts being very blue kind of characterizes that. Now, I decided to write a book about 2017. And that was very presumptuous, because I had never read the book before. I have no history background. But I have been an entrepreneur. And I’ve started three companies and sold three companies successfully, one went public in the 80s, and then two other so two public companies. And I decided that writing a book wasn’t a whole lot different than starting a new company, you have to do research, you have to be objective, you have to be persistent. And that’s what I tried to do. So I spent four years writing we the President starting in 2017, and finishing last year in 2021. And it was published on February 11. And the whole idea of the book is to write it from the perspective of might say, a chief executive who’s got to make very hard decisions and Catholic Protestant politics or ideology creep into those decisions. So I wrote that with a heavy emphasis on economics. And I didn’t I never use terms like Democrat, Republican, left right wing, conservative liberal, never used any of those Protestant terms. And always just try to focus on what the issues were, whether they’re economic issues, or domestic or international issues, rather than ideology. And that’s, that’s what got me started on writing the book.

 

Scott D Clary  06:30

That’s incredible. And that’s that. So this is this is a completely different view. It’s not historians view, it’s someone that is trying to educate themselves. That they, I am assuming, as somebody goes into this book, they’re educating themselves on on how policies actually affect business decisions, financial economic environments, and and you’re doing that through the lens of the people that are potentially the most the most persuasive in in basically started in, in affecting those decisions, through presidents through through different governments over the years. Now is the goal to unpack the history and then understand lessons and maybe, for example, understand that. You know, all the things that we experienced in our lifetime, are not so new and novel and history does repeat itself. Is that the goal of the book, or what is the actual takeaway for somebody who’s reading this?

 

Ron Gruner  07:29

Well, I think one takeaway, I don’t think I caught the goal. But one takeaway is that history does repeat itself. Let me just give you one or two examples. President Donald Trump ran on the notion of America First, and most Americans they had never heard that phrase before. But orangey hurting the first president, I covered my book ran in 1920 on exactly that phrase, America first. That was later adapted by a group trying to group campaigning against America’s involvement in World War Two caught America first. Also, Harding ran on the notion of a return to normalcy, which is very similar what Donald Trump ran on Make America Great Again, both of those are looking backwards, just as Ronald Reagan ran on, let’s make America great. Again, Trump actually shorten that to make America great again. So that theme of America first and looking back to better times, and trying to return America to those better times. goes back at least 200 years hurting Reagan, Donald Trump. But to answer your question more specifically, in terms of policies that presidents invoke, and how they affect us today, that was the primary purpose to really understand how we got where we are both the good, bad, the good aspects and the bad aspects of where we think we are as a nation. And so I focus a lot, for example, on taxation policies, in that regard, and on international policies in that regard. I mean, one of the major topics we as Americans are dealing with, and actually the world is dealing with today is that the crises on the borders of Ukraine. I actually cover that in quite a bit of detail, anticipating that in the Clinton chapter where President Clinton actually encouraged the expansion of NATO eastward into former Warsaw Pact countries, which was predicted by George Keaton, probably the top diplomat in the State Department at the time, 50 years of experience as a diplomat, when he made that state when he made the prediction in 1997. He says, When NATO moved into Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic in 1999, he says, this is going to cause a second Cold War. He predicted that in the 90s. I talked about that extensively in my book, and nobody listened to him. Unfortunately, here we are faced with a situation where, right or wrong, the former Soviet Union, now Russia was threatened by NATO advancing onto its borders, and that was predicted by some very smart people 30 years ago.

 

Scott D Clary  09:52

Now, when you go through this incredible history, and you start to understand that there’s been similar situations before For, you must start to wonder, why haven’t we done things differently? Why haven’t we improved as a country? So do you have an understanding as to why we always default to making the same mistakes making the same foreign policy decisions that have been predicted 30 years previous by very smart people? Why do we forget? That’s my main question.

 

Ron Gruner  10:23

Well, I don’t think it’s quite as bad as you might suggest, Scott, I think we are improving as a country. And I’m not saying that. Continuously. I may just give you an example, in under Harding, and Coolidge, they passed immigration acts in 1921, and 1924, which were designed to keep Southern Europeans and Eastern Europeans out of the United States, namely Italians and Slavs, who were Catholic and Jews. And they were quite explicit about that keeping Catholics and Jews out the United States would maintain the racial homogeneity of the United States. We never do that anymore. We that’s that’s that was a horrendous thing to think about. But that existed 100 years ago. And it wasn’t until 1952, that Asians could become naturalized citizens. So somebody immigrated to the United States, say, from India or Japan, they cannot become a US citizen until 1952. So we’ve swept all that aside, and our immigration policies, although we still have perhaps a ways to go a much, much better and more open and more, more caring than they were even 50 to 60 years ago, and certainly 100 years ago,

 

Scott D Clary  11:31

I guess you don’t realize how recent some of these things are. When you say 50 to 60 years ago, that doesn’t seem that long.

 

Ron Gruner  11:39

But when I did my research to discover that,

 

Scott D Clary  11:43

so, so Asians could not be naturalized citizens up until 50 years ago, 60 years,

 

Ron Gruner  11:50

with one exception, the Chinese could, and that was made possible in 1943. Because the Chinese were allies of America during World War Two, and they allow the Chinese to be naturalized during World War Two, but they were the only Asians that could.

 

Scott D Clary  12:03

So that’s a really interesting point. And I guess, when I look at America today, and you make a good point that times have been and policies have been much harsher. And our general disposition towards other people has not been great in history. I don’t think anyone argue that. But But I still feel like we always default to an us versus them very polarized, very separated, always angry. And I think it’s reached a boiling point in the past two years. So yes, we have made massive improvements. But I still feel like there’s a lot of anger and frustration and stress in the country. And I’m wondering if there’s the say, is to say we’ve moved forward? Obviously, we have. But do you feel as though we’ve properly learned lessons from the past? Or could there be a better emphasis so that we don’t always feel so separated and segregated and angry at each other? What’s the what’s the way that we could properly move forward and basically stop what’s happened over the past two years, from occurring in the next two years? And the next five years, 10 years?

 

Ron Gruner  13:10

Well, we have a political party system, which in my introduction, I I point out quotations from George Washington, during his administration, the first president, how he felt the the embryonic parties that were forming in the United States around Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, one focused on federal government, one focused on states rights was badly divided the nation, this was the talks he made in a speech he made in 1797. So much of what we have is the fact that we have two political parties that are always striving for power. We don’t have term limits, we have huge amounts of money flowing in financing these these attacks on each other. And as long as we have that, I think we’re going to be divided. I think, another aspect that tends to make America revert back to the isolationism is both a strength and a weakness of America. That’s what Alex De Tocqueville called American exceptionalism. He saw Americans when he visited us in the 1830s and 40s, as an exceptional race. I beg your pardon. I don’t want to use that phrase as exceptional people and exceptional country. So we’ve always thought about ourselves a very, very special. Many countries, of course, do that. But I think we do that need stream. And that’s caused a lot of the isolationism in the division, for example, over the immigration of Hispanics, now that we have the United States, because many people want to keep American exceptional.

 

Scott D Clary  14:30

Now, I find it very interesting. And, you know, you mentioned this two party system, which is a system that we’re all very used to, but has there ever been at any point in American history an alternative to a two party system where an additional third party Oh, I so I so you know, like I’m I’m Canadian. So right now we have liberals conservatives, but we also have NDP, which is New Democratic Party, which definitely takes a significant significantly larger portion of votes that I would see a third party take in the US. So how do we is there any precedent for moving away from a pure two party system? And if so, what was that? But also, how could we do that? How can we encourage that?

 

Ron Gruner  15:15

Well, we’ve, we’ve had many attempts at forming independent parties or third parties going back to the Know Nothing Party, the 19th century, that was basically taking a position regarding reducing immigration, John Anderson ran as an independent back in 1980s. And I recall, we had a Ross Perot, who started essentially an independent movement that was quite successful in the 1990s. But they typically have a lifetime of one or two elections of the day day out to basically run for election in the United States, you need tons of money in a small independent body party can’t raise those funds to compete against the two major parties. So for all intents and purposes, we are a two party country that we will be indefinitely.

 

Scott D Clary  15:58

That’s unfortunate, because I didn’t even know like, when when Trump was running, though, that was a conversation too. And then he defaulted to Republican. Because I think that that’s the only way that he found that he could capture enough at the base of the baby couldn’t run, he couldn’t run independently. So you pull out all these lessons, what I think are fabulous lessons from past presidents lessons that are things that we should learn from today in this in this book, I want to go down two separate paths. For this interview, I’d like to understand some of the lessons learned in economics, Adam Smith, modern monetary theory and why that’s such an important piece of the book. And then I would also like to just walk through some really interesting stories that you discovered doing research that maybe people don’t know about past presidents, some things about successes, failures, that, that that would be great if we just like brought to light and sort of big,

 

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Scott D Clary  18:06

is a teaser for what else people will get in the book, but first, like monetary policy, cuz I know that you put in a huge amount into economics. So why why when you’re writing because you sort of touched on it. You want it to write a book that speaks to business individuals and business people. But But why is economics such a huge portion of a book that could really just be a history lesson?

 

Ron Gruner  18:33

Well, to me, history is a means not an end. I mean, what we really want to accomplish is to improve the well being of American citizens. And for most people that comes down to their their pocketbook, okay, their health and their pocketbook. But much of that relates to economics. And that’s why I focus on that. And one of the greatest realizations that I think shocks that I had, and during the research on the book is the amount of income inequality that exists in the United States today. And I know people are skeptical about that. But let me give you some hard figures in 1968, the, the middle 60% of taxpayers that the middle class and the lower 20%, they the lower income people typically making minimum wage or slightly above that had their peak incomes. And since then, it’s been flat to down. So let me give you a specific let’s take a family of four with one spouse working full time, one spouse working half time, that’s 3000 hours a year. These are not slackers, these are hard workers. In 1968, they were making a minimum wage, as I recall the dollar 60 in that range in 20 $20. Today’s dollars, that’s worth about $12 An hour $11.80 An hour and if you calculate that out, that family was making 34 $35,000 a year, basically putting them into the lower middle income class a comfortable lifestyle and they were working at minimum wage. Now today minimum wage is $7.25 here in the United States. And that same family working just as hard, has taken a 38% pay cut, and they are now well below the poverty line. And if they’re going to survive, they’re going to have to get food stamps and other support from the government, which is what up until recently, workers at Walmart, for example, and in all the fast food chains, although they may be working for time, they were all upset the required to survive taking food stamps. So one of the reasons social spending has increased so much in the United States since the 1960s. Is because pay has gone down for much the United States. And that’s what’s happened. On the other hand, a family in 1968, that was making $34,000 strictly on dividends from a stock fund, like a trust fund, let’s call it a family of four not working, taking dividends. Today, their income wouldn’t be $35,000, it would be $257,000. It went up by a factor of seven. So you’ve got two families, one basically living off capital in dividends. And one living off the minimum wage, one gets a pay cut of 38%. And one gets an increase in their income of seven times. Now, I’m not saying capital is bad capitol, finances everything we do. But we need to spread I think some of that down to people that are working hard and barely surviving. And that’s not socialism. That’s basically just being equitable in the distribution of how we accredit work in this country because without those people working, as they are in the middle and the lower classes, we wouldn’t have the lifestyle America enjoys today.

 

Scott D Clary  21:34

I just want to take a second and thank the sponsor of today’s episode, HubSpot. Now, the new year might have you thinking ahead to what you want out of your career. So when you think about your success story, what do you actually picture? Is it retiring early with a beautiful view of the skyline? Is it leaving a legacy with your name on it? Or maybe it’s helping influence and change some of the world’s most pressing issues? Whatever it is, writing your success story starts by working smart because when you work smart, your success story writes itself. A HubSpot CRM platform helps your marketing campaigns work harder and smarter. With intuitive visual workflows and bot builders. You can create scalable, automated campaigns across email, social media, web and chat. So your customers hear your messages loud and clear. Are you tired of your content not adapting to mobile, making it difficult for your customers to absorb your message a HubSpot CRM platform optimizes your content for multiple devices so that you can reach your customers, wherever they are, which is just smart. Learn more about how you can transform your customer experience with a HubSpot crm@hubspot.com. But we’ve been we’ve been trying to to be more equitable. And we’ve and there’s been so many initiatives to support to support the lower end middle class. Why and there’s you always see, like, you know, I think Biden just put out a stat like there’s 460,000, or hundreds of 1000s of jobs that were just created. Obviously, a lot of that has to do with employment that was created that was probably lost during the pandemic, but there seems to always be moving forward. But it seems like the like you mentioned that that lower middle class is always is always losing out, they’re losing a disproportionate amount of income versus inflation. But when did that start moving in that direction? Was there a policy? Was there? Was there a particular attitude in the culture of the US? Was there one item? Like? How do where do we trace that back to because you mentioned in the 60s, right, I think it was the 60s that you said, when Yeah, so that people were making this so much and they could afford like a decent lifestyle? What was the what was the point that we stopped protecting and stopped supporting so that it all got away from us? Because now it just seems incredibly disproportionate?

 

Ron Gruner  23:54

Well, I think in the 60s, a number of things were happening. Obviously, we began to lose business and jobs overseas, starting in the 60s, automobiles, for example. And consumer goods. I mean, that’s when Japanese cars and Japanese televisions began and radios began to come into the United States in the 60s and 70s. That was one factor. Another factor was going automation. But another factor which I think a business and believe me, I’ve been part of business my whole life. I’ve started three companies, I believe in profits, absolutely. But another factor was an economist, Milton Friedman, who wrote a landmark paper, the early 1960s. And it was published in the New York Times Magazine in 1970. That basically said, business has one and only responsibility to make the largest possible profits for shareholders as long as it stays within the law. And so, nothing in terms of other stakeholders, the environment, the community, customers or employees was came set came second to making as much money as possible. Now when I first started working in this 60s firms like IBM and General Motors were very proud of the fact if you look at their annual points from those years, they were very proud of the fact that they were a good corporate citizen. And they supported their community. They supported their employees, they were good to their customers. But by after Friedman put that out, I remember distinctly and you can look this up, it’s easy to find that McDonald, who is the chairman, chief executive of a large computer company, Burroughs Corporation was following MIT Friedman’s guidelines saying, our policy is to be so tight handed, we keep our customers soon, but not rebellious. So he was just focusing on maximizing profits, even though his customers might be selling, because he had him locked in. So that’s, I think that’s the timeframe. In the reasons I think that we see things kind of peaked in the late 60s that had been flat to down since then. Now, I think it’s good news, though, in that the American Business Council about five or six years ago began to move away from that notion, Bill Friedman’s notion that profits are profits over everything in trying to treat their employees more fairly. And if you look at the rise in wages, even before we began to see the issues just before and after the pandemic, pressure on wages upward, places like McDonald’s and Walmart began raising the minimum wage the lower wages of their, of their workers pretty significantly. And that’s, that’s improved very much over the last six or seven years. So that’s a positive sign.

 

Scott D Clary  26:27

It is a positive sign, I guess, it just has to be. Like, it’s good to continue to initiatives, the the item that’s unfortunate is that there’s so much inflation, that it’s still going to like the inflation is outpacing the increase in salary. So the quality of life is not going to improve dramatically until we can sort of tackle both issues at the same time.

 

Ron Gruner  26:48

Right? That’s inflation issue is only the last six months or so. Hopefully, we’ll get that in hand. But, you know, when I talk about McDonald’s and Walmart, raising, raising wages, I mean, they were doing that starting about 2015. And they were, you know, workers, they were really beginning to benefit. But now inflation is, of course, because has become a major concern.

 

Scott D Clary  27:09

A main takeaway from that, why was why was Milton Friedman so influential? I understand the rationale, like if somebody says, make more money, but why did that shift the course of business thinking across all of the US, it doesn’t make sense to me why that one individual impacted. It’s such a such an extreme level.

 

Ron Gruner  27:29

We all know, he  was a very well respected economist for good reasons, he had many insights into the economy and how the economy works. And I guess it’s, it’s hard for me to say from this distance, but I think the feeling was, to an extent that money is if companies make a lot of money, I’m going to use Andrew Andrew melons, original phrase, that money will trickle down into the rest of the economy. Andrew Mellon in the 1920s, was the first to use that phrase that if if companies are successful, and wealthy people become successful, that money trickles down to the rest of the economy. And I think I’m presuming this, I think that was his operating assumption that there’s got to be something, there’s got to be a local mode of driving the economy, that’s companies. And if they’re very, very success, if they’re very, very successful, that will feed everything else, and it just went up turning it fed the shareholders, but a lot of it didn’t trickle down to anybody else.

 

Scott D Clary  28:22

And you feel like the current version of modern money, modern monetary theory and socially conscious business and businesses that are focused on not just the shareholders, but stakeholders. Do you feel like that is something that is being championed by by any but is it a partisan conversation? Or is it something that is currently moving forward, regardless of whether or not Republican Democrat it’s something that sort of the the business environment is changing? Regardless,

 

Ron Gruner  28:55

whether there’s kind of two topics there one modern monetary theory, and I’ll discuss that a second, the other is income equality or income that’s called normalization for a larger proportion of the US workers. And in the latter regard in terms of income, normalization, I think I think that is improving. And I will give FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP credit for that basically point to the Forgotten American worker forgotten because of jobs flowing overseas because of taxation policies. For a number of policies, he made that a major theme of his campaign, and he’s built a very loyal political base because of that, so he has given visibility to that issue, it’s gonna be hard for anybody now to say, well, his shareholders above all, and workers, you know, take second or third tier, that’s gonna be very difficult. So he’s really brought that to the to the forefront to his credit, modern monetary theory. We’ll see what happens on that. But I think that’s going to be wishful thinking that basically says the United States can issue as much debt as it wishes as long as they can find buyers for that debt. As as long as I can find buyers that just keep pushing it out, that just seems to be like, you’re just begging for a fall. Because once people saying, you know, begin to lose a little bit of trust in the dollar, for some reason, we can’t predict what that might be. And buyers begin to back away, interest rates go up, and that whole thing collapsed like a house of cards. Now, to give you an analogy on that in the world for decades, and certainly through the 90s, in the 2000s, if the house prices were rising every year by, you know, 358 percent, just inexorably, and they had never really decreased, they might slow down, you know, from 1950 to 19 2005, they might have slowed, but they never took a steep drop. And so the whole mortgage industry in the finance industry was based on the fact that house prices, were always going to rise. And once they took a dip and then fell, everything collapsed in 2008 2009, and I’m worried that with our national debt claiming like it is based on the theory that we’ll just keep pushing debt out, we can always refinance is going to be a repeat of 2008 on steroids.

 

Scott D Clary  31:04

Interesting, and why and why so and it helped me understand because I’m a layman in in monetary theory, and, and the idea like the, like the theories that drive some of the policy decisions. So modern monetary theory, is really that concept. It’s a concept that we can keep printing money to support our economy, as long as there’s a buyer for our products and services that just like a very basic simple definition is that I think

 

Ron Gruner  31:32

that’s an excellent definition. Now, economists might kind of Spruce that up or map a ribbon around that, but you know, you’ve got the essence of it. Right. They’re

 

Scott D Clary  31:39

interesting. And and why is another silly question? Why is this considered modern monetary theory, when it seems like this is always always been the way that we operate?

 

Ron Gruner  31:49

Well, it hasn’t always been I mean, people for, you know, up until fairly recently, we’re worried about the national debt. You know, the many people were concerned about Obama issuing more debt during 2008, where they were worried about the national debt and kicking off inflation. So there were worries about increasing debt up until a few years ago. And this whole idea of modern monetary theory is a fairly recent concept that’s only been around a few years. And it says, Don’t worry, it’s not going to be a problem, we can keep issuing this stuff, because the dollar is the reserve currency of the world. And that’s not going to change.

 

Scott D Clary  32:23

Interesting, it doesn’t seem like a logical the thought process behind that doesn’t seem logical at all. It I don’t, I don’t understand how that could be something that people could get behind it. Like there seems to be so many flaws in that argument.

 

Ron Gruner  32:39

But the dollar has been supreme from the end of World War Two. And the dollar is the reserve currency that we’re automating. And the United States up almost daily here is that you’re kicking us sanctions against people. And that hurts them badly financially, because most of the world’s business and even personal transactions are conducted in dollars. And if those dollars, that gives the United States tremendous control over the economy of the world. So I think many people are confident that’s going to stay around for a long time.

 

Scott D Clary  33:08

But they’ve never pushed it this far. Since they moved off the gold standard. They’ve never pushed it to this level, have they? In history? No. I

 

Ron Gruner  33:14

mean, well, there’s lots of ways to measure the debt, if you measure the debt as a percentage of GDP, gross domestic product. So think of your family that has an income of a, say $50,000 versus 25, of family with an income of $50,000 can afford a lot more credit card debt than when making $25,000. Exact is exactly the same thing with national debt. So the ratio of the national debt to the GDP, the Gross Domestic Product is important. And the probably the largest civil increase in that occurred. One of the largest was during the Reagan administration, where that went up, I don’t recall exactly about 40%, there was a huge increase as a percentage of GDP, the increase of debt relative to GDP over the last few years has gone up, but not quite as much as it has historically. And that’s, that’s an important factor. So in some respects, this, this increase, although people talk about trends and trillions of dollars of new debt, there’s lots of ways to measure that. But the most the best way is as a percentage of GDP. And it’s not as bad as it looks. It’s bad. I worry about it, but it’s not quite as bad. It doesn’t make a historic compared to times in the past.

 

Scott D Clary  34:27

Very interesting. Okay. Let’s, so that’s a good segue. So I want to talk about I want to talk about sort of the second piece of the book because I want to talk about some of the lessons learned from presidents historically some of the some of the stories that you that you research and that you that you speak about in the book. And I guess I’ll ask you as well, are there any any because I’m going to I’m going to close this sort of this section out, but are there any other thoughts that you have on modern monetary theory? The the future economic state of the US just prognosis you No forecasts that you have, because you’ve done the research. You’ve lived in this for so long, like, where do you see the economy going? In the next 510 years positive, negative some thoughts on that?

 

Ron Gruner  35:10

Well, if you look back at the the economic crashes in the last 100 years, they the crash of 1907, the Great Depression in the early 1930s, the the Savings Loan crash in the 1980s, many people have forgotten about 2008. It’s all based on optimistic thinking. Now, what’s happening now is going to continue happening in the future. Modern monetary theory is based on that same thinking what’s happening now is going to continue happening in the future. And so something politicians and leadership would ideally do is to have the courage to tell people that may not be the case that we may have to basically tighten our belt, whether that means cutting spending, raising taxes, or both to get our fiscal house in better order. And we haven’t had any presidents willing to do that Eisenhower did that when he was bringing down the war debt in the 1950s. He said, I’m not cutting taxes, we got to cut this war debt. And people respected him for that. But we don’t have any people now that do that. But we need somebody that steps up and gives us some bitter medicine because I think is going to be needed.

 

Scott D Clary  36:14

Let’s go into some of the the stories that you that you discovered as you’re doing research. So you you how do you even begin to research some of the the the Presidents you’re going in, like what is the because there’s so much information on every single one of them? I’m sure every single one will there is probably a book in many books on every single presidents lifetime. So what are you trying to cover in the chapter that covers one particular president? What’s the main takeaway?

 

Ron Gruner  36:43

Kind of related to that question? People ask me, Ron, do you do an outline? And I can I surprise mice? I absolutely do not. I do not do any wrote? He didn’t do No, I did not do other than knowing I’m gonna have at least 17 chapters one for each president. That was my outline. Yeah. And so doing research now is much, much easier than it was just a few years ago, I mean, the off most of the records of the presidential libraries, the White House, the Department of State, etc. They’re all available online. So the way to begin a new chapter, let’s say, Calvin Coolidge, who I knew very little about a few years ago, I would go on the web and do classic web surfing and starting with the White House archives presidential library in Vermont. And that just led into broader and broader topics. And I would spend a couple of weeks just doing research, unstructured research to kind of begin to form an opinion about who this man was. And that’s how I that’s how I proceeded and the chapters grew organically. No chapter, all 17 chapters have a somewhat different structure, each one being individually the presence because I think each one was slightly different and and how they approach things.

 

Scott D Clary  37:53

Okay, no,that’s fair. So let’s let’s dive into a little bit of history here. So I’m going to premise with this, so love him or hate him, Trump was very polarizing. But I’m sure there’s been a lot of other polarizing presidents in history. But I feel like people sometimes forget what has occurred in history and what people have done and what they haven’t done. So let’s go into interesting stories from presidents past that probably would shock people if they were acting in the way that they did several years ago, in modern day. So what are some? What are some presidents that and some ridiculous, you know, very controversial things that people have done that have impacted that have impacted the country?

 

Ron Gruner  38:42

Well, there’s, I can name a Democrat, who took a tremendous amount of heat and criticism. During their time, Franklin Roosevelt, perhaps the most. Roosevelt basically took the notion and we’ve reached what Herbert Hoover was doing. Herbert Hoover said the government needs to stay out of people’s affairs. And the people need to bootstrap themselves up out of the depression. And there’s I have actual quotes of that in my book about Hoover. Franklin Roosevelt said, Look, if businesses aren’t giving jobs to people and people are starving, then the government’s got to give them jobs. And that’s what he did. He basically put the people to work building roads and highways and dams and all kinds of things. But he did that. Also, he raised taxes, and the business establishment weren’t very happy about he also put a lot of regulations in place, which they weren’t happy about. So he took a lot of heat in the 1930s and was called a socialist and a communist because of that, and he was moving the country towards communism. But then when World War Two happened, he did a nationalize those companies, they all remain private. They were all allowed to make a small profit. There was coordination at the government level, but they all the companies all ran themselves, so he certainly wasn’t what was predicted. The same thing happened with Eisenhower, who was he had never belonged to a political party, much less the Communist Party before before he became president. When he added on to Social Security in the 50s, and even when he did the Interstate Highway System, he was accused of succumbing to creep, creeping communism, creeping socialism by having the federal government get involved in that. And when the administration before Eisenhower, when Harry Truman advocated for broader health care coverage, he was caught a follower of the Moscow line, a socialist, so they all took,

 

Scott D Clary  40:28

I’m seeing on TV.

 

Ron Gruner  40:31

Yeah, they took a lot of heat when they made decisions that people disagreed with. So what we’re hearing now, we’ve got one party calling one side socialists and the other party calling up the other side of deplorable ‘s chasing religion and guns. That’s not new, unfortunately.

 

Scott D Clary  40:49

Who was who was the most hated president in United States history?

 

Ron Gruner  40:54

Well, I can’t wait to go back to the 19th century, credibly, but since 1900, the president that left with the lowest ratings was Harry Truman.

 

Scott D Clary  41:06

Why, why? Why is it well,

 

Ron Gruner  41:09

the primary reason was that when the Korean War happened, General Douglas MacArthur was running that he did a good job of chasing the South Koreans, the North Koreans out of South Korea, but then he chased him into North Korea, and he was right on the edge of the Chinese border and, and wanted to go into China, possibly his nuclear weapons. Truman said no, don’t do that we treat come back. He then went to Congress and tried to go around Truman, who was the commander in chief, and Truman fired him on the spot. Now, MacArthur was very, very popular. He was voted the most popular Man United States in 1946. I think he was a great general in World War Two. And so when Truman left, he left with the lowest popularity ratings, at least on average, his last year of any president now today, he’s considered one of our best presidents studying the top 10. I think some ratings great him like number six. So he certainly was one of them. Another one I mentioned that I think is underrated is a former President Jimmy Carter, in many respects. Let me just say this, many people consider Carter very failed a terrible president. Okay. That was because he lost so badly to Ronald Reagan. And near the end of his presidency, he gave a speech, we basically chastise the American people for moral and spiritual failings. It’s called the malaise speech. But he, he in many ways, laid the groundwork for Ronald Reagan. He did more deregulation than Reagan or any subsequent President did. He deregulated the airlines, he directed the railroads and tracking also energy. He did all that in the like the 77 to 79 timeframe. He was the first to say, the issue with energy is not energy production, its energy conservation, energy growth in the United States was growing 1.2% per year had been for decades. And Carter said, we can’t continue this, because otherwise it’s going to become an impossible situation would never produce enough oil or energy to counter that. So if he he fostered legislation in 1978, to reduce energy consumption and focus on conservation. And that immediately plateaued energy consumption per capita, and then began declining and today, Americans as a as a people per capita use 15% less energy today than they did in 1978. Whereas energy production per capita has only gone up roughly seven or 8%. So it’s conservation that’s made this country energy independent, not energy production. In college, you get credit for that. One other thing about Carter. He is a very moral and honorable man, he basically learned his communication skills teaching kindergarten, I don’t say that in a pejorative, I beg your pardon my apology, teaching Bible, Bible school or Sunday school, starting at Annapolis when he was a naval Cadet all the way through his presidency and even today in the Baptist Church in Georgia. In contrast, Reagan learned his skills as a radio announcer a corporate spokesman, a movie star, the governor of California, Reagan had superb communication skills. Carter had skills, communication skills that were more focused on being a sermon or a minister. So for example, the Iranian hostages that negotiates with negotiations were completed by Jimmy Carter, the day before Reagan took office, the Iranians had concluded, well, we’ve been negotiating with Clinton for a Carter for nine months. Let’s get this wrapped up rather than starting over with Reagan. So they signed the deal the day before Reagan took office. Carter did not announce that he did not announce that because he said my foremost objective is that those people get out, get out of Iran. And so he, the the, that didn’t happen until the inauguration day and they didn’t get out of Iranian airspace until about an hour after President Reagan speech at which point Ronald Reagan announced hostages were free and 90% of Americans believe we’re Reagan did that and still believe that Reagan never corrected himself and Carter never asked for a correction.

 

Scott D Clary  45:14

Very interesting. So, to flip the flip the script on that Then who do you think is the most overrated president?

 

Ron Gruner  45:28

That’s a hard one to say.

 

Scott D Clary  45:31

You know, you’re gonna, you’re gonna upset some people that like, whoever you are gonna say,

 

Ron Gruner  45:35

No, that’s really not it. You know, one thing when you write a biography, and you really study people, anybody has false, including the most recent president, including presidents going back 200 years. But I think I believe for the most part, every President tried to do his best for the country. Now, they made a lot of mistakes. And I personally strongly disagree with the fact that the the nation of the election was stolen in 2020, for example, and I think, you know, to address that issue, I think, former President Trump is doing a huge disservice to America and democracy by claiming it is a building distrust, but he did many things good. So you can put him where you want to, but I think that for the most

 

Scott D Clary  46:24

overrated you can’t say that Trump was overrated because a lot of people don’t like him. Well, no, but he’s got

 

Ron Gruner  46:29

a very He’s, uh, he’s got a very strong divided, he’s got a very, very strong following with people that have him understand. So you can you can it you have to say, from what perspective is being overrated. From a historian perspective, if you look at professional historians, you may or may not trust their opinions. But if you look at professional historians, the most recent survey of Trump put him like I think number three from the bottom, just below it below war G hurting so he’s not rated highly at all, by professional historians. We’ll see what history brings up but not today. No.

 

Scott D Clary  46:59

They’re interesting. Um, January six, has there ever been other events like that in history at that level?

 

Ron Gruner  47:08

No, not. There has not been an attack on the US Capitol since the War of 1812. That was unique. And other than the Civil War, where you had outright insurrection for four years during the Civil War, we’ve never had an incident as serious as what happened January 6 2020. And what’s shameful. ‘s were divided as a nation, whether even matters or whether it actually happened, as most people believe it did.

 

Scott D Clary  47:32

I think I think that’s so you know, you mentioned you mentioned, the issue with Trump is is the service that he’s doing to democracy. And I think that’s the biggest, the biggest blemish on his on his presidency is this entire, this entire January six, the combination of all these negative things that happened on January 6? No, it’s just interesting to me, because being a Canadian, I didn’t realize that I didn’t realize how serious that was until you start to look at history and realize that nothing like that has ever happened in US history. That and I guess like you start you do understand how serious it is. But the fact that you know, you, you don’t realize it that has never happened before, at any level, outside of like, because protests are one thing, going into a state capitol is a is a very different thing. That’s it. That’s where the lines are crossed. And I don’t understand why that seems to be a discussion point as to why that is a good or bad thing. It doesn’t really make sense.

 

Ron Gruner  48:36

Well, it’s politics and want to call the American political industry, where you’ve got a lot of interested parties, whether it’s cable news, or players on the internet, or various people who make a lot of money by spreading information that some people want to hear, and they tell them what they want to hear. And it may be disinformation. It may not be true, but it’s a good way to make money that I talked about that in my book. I think the the insurrection and the attack on the cap, the national capital was bad. But I think the thing that is even worse, is the doubt and distrust that’s been spread about the American, the American electoral process where you can’t trust who’s elected, you know that for 200 years, we had elections where people went in Lost and people oftentimes were very distressed that their favorite person lost, but they accepted the results of the election. And they said we’re gonna try harder. And we’re next time and for years. We had a very divisive election in the year 2000. Between gore and and bush. But when the Supreme Court ruled against Bush, he accepted that welcomed Bush into the presidency, and we moved on as a nation. Yeah. What’s happened in 2000? What happened on January? Well, what happened really, in November of 20, when President Bush did not accept the results of the election that was unprecedented, and it really undermines democracy, because if you can’t trust the election and who’s been elected, you don’t have a democracy.

 

Scott D Clary  49:59

Correct? Correct. Yeah. Do you feel as though do you feel as though he’s going to run again? I guess it would be in 2024. Correct. That’s when?

 

Ron Gruner  50:10

Well, I can’t say Scott. I mean, that’s a like I said, my book really hasn’t focused on politics, I think. But I always try it. But with that caveat, I always try to answer the question as best I can. I think he may well run if he thinks he has almost a lock on winning. Yeah. But I think if he doesn’t, isn’t almost certain he’s going to win. I don’t think he’s going to run because I think he can’t play that game twice, saying, Okay, I got cheated again. Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to work. So he’s got to be competent, he’s gonna win if he’s gonna run.

 

Scott D Clary  50:48

Let’s, let’s forget about Trump. So, main takeaways from studying these these presidents? What? If somebody was to pick up your book and read your book? What do you hope for them to take away from it?

 

Ron Gruner  51:07

I think the first thing I would hope for is that the situation that we’re in today isn’t a totally unique, many of the issues where we’re arguing over as a nation, the role of the United States in the world, world affairs in Europe and NATO, for example, the issues of immigration, okay, whether we should have higher or lower taxes, for example, all those are issues that have been discussed or debated now for for decades, if not several 100 years, but certainly in the title of my book. Those are all old issues that go back to Warren G. Harding, and, and even beyond, so those aren’t new and in general, not always, in general, things are improving. Like I gave you the example of immigration. I mean, that was horrible back in the 20s, where it wasn’t just a small group of people that being excluded as Catholics and Jews, and that Congress talked about that they were, they did not contribute to a racial homogeneity, the United States, Catholics and Jews who would say that now, so that’s a very positive trend. But we still have many things to do. But the the, the, the collapse of trust in American institutions, from new systems to science to the government is distressing. And that’s something I think, is unique in today’s times,

 

Scott D Clary  52:24

so so we have to figure that out, ASAP, out very, very quickly. Okay, what I’d like to do is, I’d like to pull out some rapid fire questions from your career, you’ve had tons of success, I think that will really, really help the listeners understand, you know, as you navigated your career, some lessons that you’ve learned, and also what’s allowed you to be so successful in your career, but also with some of the other things that you’ve taken on, including writing this book. But before I pivot, the most important question is where do people connect with you? Where do people get the book, if they want to read it? Or they just want to ask questions? What’s the best outlet social media website any of that?

 

Ron Gruner  53:05

Well, the the books website is WWE the presidents.us. We the presidents.us, you go to that you can read about the book and what people are saying about it, you can also find out like six links that take you where you can buy it, you can you can buy it at your independent bookstore, they if they don’t have it in stock, you can ask them to order that because it’s an all the computer records, they can order that and have it for you in a few days. Or you go to the big online retailers, of course Amazon and Barnes and Noble have it so there’s lots of places to get it. But you can start at WWE the presidents.us.

 

Scott D Clary  53:37

Okay, perfect. All right, let’s ask a couple rapid fire questions. Like I said, you had a great career, over your career, what was the biggest challenge that you’ve had to overcome? And how did you overcome it?

 

Ron Gruner  53:52

I think that the first company I started, was publicly financed, we raised $107 million in the 80s, when that was serious money. And I was a chief executive and it was a public company. And so managing a public company was very, very challenging. You had to be quarterly revenue, objectives and profit objectives and and that really drove how you ran your business in a negative sense. So after 10 years of Alliant, we hit a brick wall with what was having happened happening in computers, we were manufacturing computers that sold for half a million dollars. And everything was moving to desktop. And the company basically, unfortunately, pretty much folded. I took a year and a half off and started a what evolved to the internet company. But I decided then that I was going to grow that organically with my own money and maybe just a little bit of outside money. So I raised just a quarter million dollars in the early 90s Plus my own money and started show.com and grew that to millions and millions of dollars by 2006. And I have to say that was a huge struggle during that from the ground up but I retained control and it can make decisions I thought were best for the company and the people in the customers as opposed to being beholden as a public company. And the same thing happened at Sky analytics when I started that in 2009, we had net the same way so that successfully. So that was a single biggest challenge going from having lots and lots of money as a public company, but basically being a servant to the expectations of the stock market every 90 days to bootstrapping up as an organic company. But reading things that we thought were best for the long term,

 

Scott D Clary  55:19

you felt you felt much more comfortable, I’m assuming, when you were running the bootstrap company, even though, like, significantly,

 

Ron Gruner  55:25

challenges and pressures, but I felt much more comfortable that way.

 

Scott D Clary  55:29

Amazing. You’ve had many people that have impacted your life if you had to pick one person who was that person who act as a mentor and advisor, and what did they teach you?

 

Ron Gruner  55:39

Well, I’ve had to, I’m talking about professional not talking about my dad. But I should mention my dad, I’m gonna have to do that because my dad was a German immigrant. He immigrated from Germany, he was 18. He spoke no English had no money. He went one up in the Oklahoma oil fields. And after being there, 20 years, he started his own company manufacturing drill bits, Rotary drill bits that drill to the ground oil, and he competed with successfully with Howard Hughes. Howard Hughes was a billionaire, a famous billionaire back in the 30s 40s 50s, and 60s, and all his wealth came from the drilling business, and my dad competed with him. So he was a model entrepreneur, that hugely influenced me as child and teenager. But two people professionally were the founder of data Gen and de Castro, who I’m still very much friends with. And Tom Perkins, who was one of the founding members of Kleiner Perkins, the venture capital firm, Tom Perkins was the chairman of my board of directors for 10 years, when a like a lion was a public company. And it was just a superb mentor had a great sense of humor, just a wonderful individual, just like he had to Castro is today. It was back in the 60s when I first went to work for data journal. So I had some very good mentors, my dad, Ed de Castro, Tom Perkins,

 

Scott D Clary  56:54

amazing, a book or podcast or something that’s influenced your life? What is it? What would you recommend? What did you learn from

 

Ron Gruner  57:03

it? Well, I’ve read so many books, it’s hard to pick one out I think if I were to kind of just focus on this topic here about the presidents, I believe was chinoise book on Eisenhower, I believe, Coronavirus, runaway that wrote that on Eisenhower, I read about five or seven years ago about 2015. And I thought that really an excellent biography of Eisenhower and the issues the President has to deal with. And that piqued my interest on the presidency. And I would say that as much as anything influenced the fact that, you know, I might want to write one of my own on the presidency, but take a different cut at it not so much about the issues in the politics of being President, looking backward as to how he got to be president, but basically looking forward as to what happened when he was president, how do policies or today’s presidents of yesterday’s presidents affect today?

 

Scott D Clary  57:59

I love that. And I think that that’s a first of all, obviously, people have to go read your book. But I think that to pique curiosity books that are great at peeking curious curiosity about history and sort of pushing people down that rabbit hole so that they do they do understand history and civic history a little bit more, I think it’s a positive things. That’s a good recommendation as well. If you could tell your 20 year old self one thing what would it be?

 

Ron Gruner  58:34

My 20 year old self Don’t be so impatient. And what are my strengths? is I have a high energy level and I’m driving Driving driving all the time, you know, whether that was with my companies or sometimes with my family and my wife, who has a tremendous targets are so my personal flukes. Okay. And I think if I had to tell my 20 year old self and my 74 year old self would be called down. Don’t be quite so impatient. Okay. Yeah. I think that’s good advice. I have to still take.

 

Scott D Clary  59:10

Good, good, good. And then last question, what does success mean to you?

 

Ron Gruner  59:18

You know, success is important, but I’ll give you an example. And an insight I had when I sewed shota.com in 2006. I was always comfortable. I made good salary. I made money off stock at Alliant. But I was never really wealthy or, you know, absolutely. independently wealthy. And when I saw show.com, we sold that for a substantial amount. And I realized that, okay, I’m, you know, very much independently wealthy, and my kids might be true. And I realized, you know, I’m an engineer. So I think a numbers I said, if happiness is on a scale of one to 100. Before I showed it calm, I think my happiness was like 93 or 94. I was very happy. Of course, there’s one or two things that you were worried about. That’s wasn’t 100 And I said, you know, after serving this company, maybe my happiness takes up to 95 or 96. But it doesn’t take up that much. You know, it’s nice to have the money but it’s not that important. And people will say, Well, Ron, you can say that because you’ve got it but I can say with you all sincerity. That’s exactly how I felt, as I was making this deal to sell show to calm, that having that money is nice, but it’s relatively small compared to your family, your health, your friends, having something a job or a hobby or something that captures your attention makes you feel like you’re contributing all that is actually far more better than having a bunch of money saying, you know, I don’t have to work anymore. I can get up and play golf all day.

 

1:00:53

I’m Amira rose Davis, host of the new season of American prodigy all about black girls in gymnastics. My white coaches just said you may not get the scores that you deserve because you’re black is the story of a decades long struggle of black gymnasts trying to find and amplify their voices.

 

1:01:11

I can’t be the next mobiles. I can’t be the next Dominique dies, I can only be the next version of myself.

 

1:01:17

Listen to American prodigies on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and wherever you get your podcasts

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