Can Trump help the Darlas?

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On the roster: Can Trump help the Darlas? – I’ll Tell You What: Case of the meat sweats – Kelly briefs the press – Report: Trump lawyers say the boss may meet Mueller – Dinner and a show

CAN TRUMP HELP THE DARLAS? 
Meet “Darla.” Darla definitely does not have health insurance. 

Darla also definitely did not listen to President Trump and what looked like the entire management team of a midsized corporation and half of his cabinet speaking on the subject at the White House today.   

But what he said may end up mattering a great deal to the life we’re imagining for her. 

The reason it’s not surprising that Darla doesn’t have health insurance is because she is one of the millions of marginally employed Americans. Darla works part-time at The Texas Roadhouse in Terre Haute, Indiana, but she greets customers and does some return desk work at Home Depot on the weekends and when she has spare time. 

And Darla has plenty of spare time. There are lots of people who need advice on building a deck or when to plant tulip bulbs in a community of nearly 150,000 people. But single and 54 years old, with her two children grown and gone, she likes her weekend work mostly for the people she meets.

All together her jobs, plus an occasional house-sitting or spring cleaning gig for one of her better-off neighbors gives her enough income so that she doesn’t qualify for Medicaid. And she’s not old enough to qualify for Medicare. She needs insurance because she is getting older and starting to need more frequent medical interventions.  

ObamaCare was meant for people just like her, operating on the economic margins of the United States. We tend to think of these people as poor or as charity cases, but folks like Darla will tell you they’re doing just fine. Life can be good, even when it’s not expensive. 

But the disadvantage of living a low-overhead lifestyle is that you are highly vulnerable to fluctuations in costs for basic goods. Darla would confess that she occasionally gives in and buys a pack of cigarettes when she goes out for “wine o’clock” with her friends from work.

You may not be acutely aware of price increases in generic cigarettes or sweet chardonnay, but she is. And so do a lot of people in places like Vigo County, Ind., which our fictional waitress calls home. 

Guess what other good about which she is sensitive to price, but which you may seldom consider cost? Yup. Health insurance. 

ObamaCare was going to provide a subsidy for her and create new markets in which competition would drive down prices. And if that didn’t work, they were going to fine her for not buying. You know the plan: More healthy customers, whether by hook or by crook, results in cheaper coverage for all. 

That didn’t work. 

While Republicans deserve considerable blame for the way they have actively worked against people like Darla getting subsidies and shown astonishing nincompoopery in the addressing the individual insurance market specifically. But the underlying flaw was as a result of the political cowardice of Democrats when crafting the law. 

Simultaneously concerned about offending voters like Darla and with an onerous fine for not buying insurance but also worried about losing votes from fiscally minded moderate Democrats, the law ended up with neither enough carrots nor enough sticks. 

Trump says he’s going to try to help Darla in a couple of ways. One is to allow what would be essentially seasonal health insurance plans. She’s healthy and doesn’t need to see the doctor all too often, so maybe she doesn’t need health insurance year round. She can also wait and schedule procedures for the period of the year she expects to have insurance, as many seasonal workers already do. 

That doesn’t give her protection against a bankrupting serious illness, but it’s probably better than nothing. The reason that she has nothing now is that the plans available are not truly unaffordable but a little pricier than she would like, especially since she knows she had better be saving some money.  

But what could be bigger for our friend, depending on what happens next, is what the president announced about so-called association health plans. 

People forget that some of the strongest proponents for universal health insurance have been big businesses with lots of employees. Walmart, for example, bellied right up to the bar when the conversation about ObamaCare got started. Large employers would love to be able to have their workers covered in part by taxpayers. They face threats from unions in result from not offering insurance to everyone, and they would like to have a healthy workforce. 

The Home Depot in Terre Haute, would love to keep Darla healthy and working for as many years as it can. Same goes for the restaurant. And if the administration can pull off one of the greatest stunt plays in the history of political Hail Mary’s, maybe they can get their way.

The thinking here is as they destabilize ObamaCare as it exists, the president and his team will try to funnel the already uninsured as well as the soon-to-be uninsured into bare-bones coverage like short-term plans and, the big hope, cheap plans offered by associations. 

Companies with lots of employees, particularly franchise-based businesses would be able to contribute money tax free to a fund that would serve as the basis for all of the Darlas of the world to chip in and get covered. 

Now, of course, this will accelerate the ObamaCare death spiral as healthy workers take advantage of cheaper plans sold through the association model, leaving sicker, older, Americans behind in the ObamaCare exchanges. 

And will there even be any takers on the corporate side? We don’t know if the Department of Labor rules will adequately assure employers that they won’t face union or litigation woes for getting involved. Corporations have lots of reasons to keep franchisees at arm’s length, particularly union organizers and plaintiffs’ lawyers.

And don’t forget, if association plans start selling like hotcakes, this rule will fall with real brutality on the older, sicker folks left behind in the moribund ObamaCare exchanges. This will accelerate and intensify the pain for them, for whom Republicans still have no anesthetic on offer.

Whatever happens is unlikely to do any good for Darla and her fellow Terre Hautetians for next year. Insurance companies will have already started issuing rates for 2018 and the bipartisan debacle that is current federal policy toward health insurance has already done its damage. There’s new hardship in the offing for millions of Americans.

But what we saw at the White House today was a big deal. It represents one of the first innovations we have seen from the GOP on these issues and it represents Trump, whether he likes it or not, taking long-term ownership of federal policies that come very close to home for every Darla, Billy and Bart out there. 

THE RULEBOOK: PLEASANT SURPRISE 
“From such a parade of constitutional powers, in the representatives and head of this confederacy, the natural supposition would be, that it must form an exception to the general character which belongs to its kindred systems. Nothing would be further from the reality.” – Alexander Hamilton and James MadisonFederalist No. 19

TIME OUT: PROSIT!
On this day in history, we take you back to the origin of Oktoberfest. History: “Bavarian Crown Prince Louis, later King Louis I of Bavaria, marries Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The Bavarian royalty invited the citizens of Munich to attend the festivities, held on the fields in front of the city gates. These famous public fields were named Theresienwiese— ‘Therese’s fields’—in honor of the crown princess; although locals have since abbreviated the name simply to the ‘Wies’n.’ Horse races in the presence of the royal family concluded the popular event, celebrated in varying forms all across Bavaria. The decision to repeat the festivities and the horse races in the subsequent year gave rise to the tradition of the annual Oktoberfest, which now begins in late September and lasts until the first Sunday in October. Alcohol consumption is an important part of the modern festival, and more than 1 million gallons of beer are consumed annually at Oktoberfest.”

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SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -20.4 points
Change from one week ago: down 4.2 points

[President Trump’s score is determined by subtracting his average job disapproval rating in the five most recent, methodologically sound public polls from his average approval rating, calculated in the same fashion.]

I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: CASE OF THE MEAT SWEATS 
This week Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt are in the same place at the same time! From the New York studio the duo discuss everything from Dana’s recent trip to Texas, the NFL and the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Plus, Dana shares a story about the original Perino ranch in Wyoming and Chris tries his hand at presidential name trivia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

KELLY BRIEFS THE PRESS
Fox News: “White House Chief of Staff John Kelly made a surprise appearance at Thursday’s press briefing, where he told reporters that he is ‘not quitting’ and is ‘not frustrated’ in the job — in an apparent swipe at rampant media reports. … But Kelly told reporters he’s staying put. ’I’m not quitting today. I don’t think I’m being fired today. I am not so frustrated in this job that I am thinking of leaving…’ ’This is really, really hard work. Running the United States of America—I don’t run it, but I am working for someone who is dedicated,’ Kelly said. The former Marine general and secretary of the Department of Homeland Security told reporters that his ‘only frustration’ was reading news that is ‘just not true.’ ‘My only frustration, with all respect to people in the room, is to come to work and read about things I allegedly said or Mr. Trump allegedly said and it’s just not true,’ Kelly said, echoing the president’s ‘fake news’ mantra.”

Trump taps Kelly’s right-hand woman for Homeland secretary – 
Fox News:“President Donald Trump on Wednesday nominated White House Deputy Chief of Staff Kirstjen Nielsen to be the next secretary of homeland security. If confirmed, Nielsen would succeed White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who served as head of the Department of Homeland Security for just over six months before replacing Reince Priebus as chief of staff July 31. Elaine Duke has been filling in as acting DHS secretary in the meantime. Nielsen would be the first former DHS staffer to lead the department, which was created by former President George W. Bush in 2003.”

Trump attacks media, threatens broadcast licenses – 
WaPo: “President Trump on Wednesday lashed out over a critical news report and escalated his previous attacks on the media by suggesting that news organizations he disagrees with be shut down, alarming free-speech advocates who compared the tactics to intimidation efforts by the Nixon administration. The president’s outbursts … came in reaction to an NBC News report that he had pushed senior aides in July for a major expansion of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. … On Twitter, Trump called the report ‘pure fiction made up to demean’ him and questioned whether networks that report ‘Fake News’ should be stripped of their broadcasting licenses…”

And stays on attack against Puerto Rico – WashEx: “President Trump said Thursday that Puerto Rico’s roads and electrical grid were in poor condition prior to Hurricane Maria. ‘Puerto Rico survived the Hurricanes, now a financial crisis looms largely of their own making,’ says Sharyl Attkisson. ‘A total lack of … accountability say the Governor. Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes,’ Trump tweeted Thursday morning. Trump also warned that Puerto Rico will soon need to start helping itself. He tweeted that the federal government cannot keep Federal Emergency Management Agency employees and first responders on the island ‘forever.’”

Trump showed sympathy for DREAMers, won’t budge on the wall – Axios: “President Trump sat down with Fox News’ Sean Hannity before a live audience in Pennsylvania on Wednesday night… He expressed sympathy for ‘Dreamers’ who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children and are now in limbo because of his decision to end the DACA program — then laid down terms likely to tank any bipartisan deal to keep protections in place: ‘Look, we have 800,000 people. They’re not necessarily young… but if we’re going to do something, we have to get something in return. And what I want is tremendous border regulation, I want the wall, and we’re going to get other things.’” 

The Judge’s Ruling: Is expressive speech protected? – Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano discusses the current NFL controversy: “Some jurisdictions — such as California, the District of Columbia, New Jersey and New York — give more protection to employees for expressive conduct in the workplace than others do. When the expressive conduct — taking a knee, bowing one’s head, locking arms with colleagues — occurs in the workplace, the issue is not necessarily one of free speech, because the First Amendment only comes into play when the government itself is accused of infringing upon or compelling speech.” More here.

REPORT: TRUMP LAWYERS SAY THE BOSS MAY MEET MUELLER
Politico: “Donald Trump’s lawyers are open to having the president sit down for an interview with Robert Mueller, according to a senior White House official, as part of a wider posture of cooperation with the special counsel’s Russia probe. If Mueller doesn’t request an interview by Thanksgiving, Trump’s lawyers may even force the issue by volunteering Trump’s time, the official said. The White House believes such an interview could help Mueller wrap up the probe faster and dispel the cloud of suspicion over Trump. A meeting with Mueller could bring serious risks for Trump—exposing him to questions about everything from potential obstruction of justice over his firing of FBI Director James Comey… But the official suggested that the White House has no reason to stonewall Mueller. … But even if he has nothing to hide, Trump’s unpredictable nature and willingness to bend the facts poses headaches for his legal team as it strategizes for a possible sit-down with Mueller.”

House Intel to release Russia backed Facebook ads  USA Today: “Leaders of the House Intelligence Committee said Wednesday they will soon make public the Facebook ads that were purchased by Kremlin-linked groups as part of Russia’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election. Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, who is leading the panel’s Russia investigation, said the committee will release about 3,000 ads provided to the panel by Facebook. He said the release will probably not come before a Nov. 1 public hearing the committee is holding with executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google. … That hearing will focus on how Russians exploited social media sites to try to influence the election. Facebook recently revealed that Kremlin-linked groups purchased $100,000 worth of ads last year.”

Trump data firm from campaign to share material – Politico: “A data analysis company that played a major role in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is sharing material as part of the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian manipulation of the 2016 election. Cambridge Analytica, which began working with the Trump campaign in mid-2016 on voter targeting, ‘has been asked by the House Intelligence Committee to provide it with information that might help its investigation,’ a company spokesman said on Wednesday. … The firm’s cooperation with the House inquiry comes as congressional investigators looking into electoral meddling begin to zero in on social media advertising and other means by which Russian operatives may have tried to sway public opinion.”

RYAN CALLS FOR GOP UNITY ON TAX REFORM
Politico: “Conservatives need to unite to push tax reform legislation across the finish line, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday morning. His call to come together, delivered in a speech at the Heritage Foundation, comes a day after a bloc of right-leaning groups publicly demanded that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his top deputies vacate their leadership posts because they’ve failed to deliver tax legislation and other conservative priorities this year. But Ryan said it’s incumbent on the right to fight back against those who he said have rigged tax laws to their benefit, echoing language used for months by conservative groups about ‘unrigging’ the economy. ‘An army of lobbyists will come to protect special interest provisions and to derail tax reform,’ Ryan said. ‘When it does, we must be able to count on the foot soldiers of the conservative movement to see this through.’”

Dems who once opposed Iran deal want Trump to keep it now  AP: “Several congressional Democrats who split with President Barack Obama to oppose the nuclear agreement with Iran are now urging President Donald Trump to uphold the international accord, arguing that robust enforcement is the best way to counter Tehran’s malign behavior in the Middle East. The reversal underscores deep concerns among lawmakers that Trump will inform Congress in the coming days that the landmark 2015 agreement with Iran is contrary to America’s national security interests. That declaration could lead to an unraveling of the seven-nation pact and leave the United States, not Iran, as the country that balked at honoring its commitments. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., who voted against the agreement two years ago, said at a hearing Wednesday U.S. interests are best served by keeping the deal and aggressively policing the agreement to ensure Iran doesn’t violate the terms.”

House Freedom Caucus opposes bill to renew NSA surveillance program – The Hill: “A carefully crafted compromise proposal to reform the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program is in trouble, with opposition coming from libertarian-leaning conservatives and members of the House Intelligence Committee. The House Freedom Caucus appears dissatisfied with the National Security Agency reform measure, which was drafted by a bipartisan group of Judiciary Committee lawmakers led by chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). Freedom Caucus members often find common ground with progressives on surveillance issues, potentially putting them in a position to decide the fate of the legislation.”

OBAMA RETURNS TO CAMPAIGN TRAIL FOR NORTHAM 
Richmond Times-Dispatch: “Former President Barack Obama will return to the campaign trail next Thursday to stump for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ralph Northam at a rally in Richmond. … Northam used the Obama news to fire up a crowd gathered Wednesday at Richmond’s Secco Wine Bar for a women for Northam happy-hour event. Saying he wanted to end with some ‘really good and exciting news,’ Northam said he got a call from Obama about a month ago. ‘President Barack Obama said that ‘I want to tell you how important Virginia is to me. It means the world to me. It means our legacy, for me and Michelle. I’m going to do everything that I can to come to Virginia to campaign for you,’’ Northam said.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY 
Agriculture Secretary Perdue says Trump will MAGA NAFTA – Fox News

Trump nominates AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers to lead National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – Politico

Q Poll: Americans feel bullish about economy, but not so much on Trump – Quinnipiac University 

AUDIBLE: TUNE IN AT 5 PM TO FIND OUT! 
“I don’t think I’m going to fire anyone tomorrow.” – White House Chief of Staff John Kelly joking with reporters in the White House briefing room about the administration’s penchant for Friday news dumps. 

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“One of my fervent hopes following Trump’s victory was that he would roll back the Government’s altered methods of determining the Unemployment Index and the Consumer Price Index to the more accurate models used in 1980. We all know this country is nowhere near ‘Full Employment’ as the latest numbers suggest nor the rate of inflation is pegged below 3% per annum. If anyone calls for better government, why don’t we demand honest government? Stop lying to us through manipulated statistics. Keep up the good work.” – Steve Aue, Brock, Texas

[Ed. note: We have a similar problem on employment statistics. Unemployment estimates are based on real data, yes, but also surveys and employers to basically see who’s hiring and who’s firing and then extrapolating national numbers from there. The number that we usually hear isn’t really the important one. The one that counts, known as the “U-6,” measures both people who are out of work and people who have stopped looking. Thanks for the kind words and I’ll keep an eye out for honest government. I’ve yet to find much of it, but then again, I’ve only been at this job for about 25 years.]

“Sorry, but you are wrong. I live in eastern NC and one of the best assessments of the health of the local economy is to count the number of boats on the water on fine days. I can tell you that for over 15 years, small family boating has gone down just like the new Home starts and the jobs reports (which by the way use some severe creative accounting). People cannot afford the extra fuel, insurance and maintenance of a boat, unless they fish or crab to make extra income. So in my opinion based on my observations, the economy is not improving for the little guys like me in my neck of the woods and river.” – Kathy Blalock, Pollocksville, N.C.

[Ed. note: Now, Ms. Blalock, have mercy! I didn’t say that the economy was as hot as Steven Strasburg was Wednesday night when he sat the Cubbies down like trained baby bears at the circus. And I also pointed out that there are serious economic problems under the surface of the robust top-line numbers. But I definitely take your point that in a lot of places in America, people feel very much left out of recent upward economic trends.] 

“Chris: Love your writing…HS must have a stellar English dept. We share a WV interest as my wife is from Morgantown. My daughter, who went to Vandy and lives in Nashville, proudly has a WVU sticker on her car! On the economic front, the IMF just released guidance suggesting that tax reform/cuts are not in the offing and suggested US economic growth in 2017 will be about 2.2% and in 2018 about 2.3%…not exactly stellar growth by any estimate.” – Bill Canfield, McLean, Va.

[Ed. note: I am not necessarily one of them, Mr. Canfield, but there are those who believe that as a mature economy, the U.S. will be unlikely to see dramatic GDP growth. Moreover, those people think that it would actually be a bad thing as a result of less stable markets and a potential driver of inflation. I think the biggest issue as it relates to elections is not an abstract like GDP, but increases and decreases to median household incomes. Job growth without wage growth or high profits that don’t result in new hiring may look good on a balance sheet, but it will kill you at the ballot box every time.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at 
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

DINNER AND A SHOW
WHDH: “Two people from New Hampshire faced a judge Wednesday after they were charged with disorderly conduct for skinny-dipping at Salisbury Beach while a wedding reception was being held nearby. Police said Zachary Tomko and Holly O’Neil were found naked at the beach on Saturday afternoon. Police said Tomko and O’Neil were in full view of both people walking on the beach and the wedding reception at the nearby Seaglass Restaurant. The uninvited couple stripped down next to the reception venue, hit the water and made quite a smash among wedding guests. ‘It’s not the middle of the summer, it’s not warm but good for them for braving the cold water,’ Leah Allen, the bride. Salisbury Police were not laughing, however, the incident cost the pair about $275 in court fines. … Allen said it made for a ‘really interesting wedding day.’”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I’ll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.