**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**

On the roster: GOP’s real tax problem is about spending - Terror attack intensifies immigration debate - Bannon pushing Trump to step up attacks on Mueller - McConnell readies judicial confirmation blitz - **Urp**

What’s the point of the GOP tax proposal set for release Thursday?

President Trump thinks he knows. Trump, channeling the triplet-loving Herman Cain, apparently wanted call the bill the “Cut Cut Cut Act.”

Whatever its other relative merits, cuts cubed would at least have the virtue of clarity.

(It wouldn’t have been any worse than the typically insipid acronym names Congress usually comes up with. We would, for the record, back the SMARM Act: Stop Making Acronyms Really Monstrously.)

But you wouldn’t want to make the name about cuts if you aren’t really about cutting, and are instead focused on tax shifting. And that’s where many Republicans are right now. Worried about blowing the bottom out of the budget deficit, they’re focused on moving around tax burdens to elicit growth.

With the economy running at a nice clip these days, concerns about inflation have quietly resurfaced. The only tool for combating inflation is increasing interest rates, and if rates go up, the government’s debt service costs could quickly become untenable.  The hangover from a decade of federal stimulus could be a doozy.

But the point on which the cut, cut, cutters and the shift, shift, shifters agree is that spending should not go down.

The problem here is that both parties tend to favor more spending because, well, that’s generally what voters want. One of the reason most democratically elected governments in the world fail is that voters want the fiscal equivalent of calorie-free French fries: high spending and low taxes.

While it is true that tax cuts often help spur economic growth, they do not, in the strict sense, “pay for themselves.” Economists disagree about the relationship between increased economic dynamism and the corresponding increase in tax receipts, but the high end of the register seems to be that under ideal circumstances, something like half of the revenue comes back.

Conservatives make a different argument, which is that the money belongs to the people who earn it, not the government. Under this approach, taxes are less an issue of economic engineering and more an issue of personal freedom: The government should spend as little as it reasonably can in order to take the smallest possible slice from citizens. Spending, in this case, would be determined by tax revenue.

The liberal point of view is that the government should determine how much money it needs to adequately care for individuals and to establish programs to create desired outcomes for the society as a whole. By this way of thinking, taxation would be determined by spending.

And the latter has been the more dominant view on taxation among American politicians for nearly a century.

But the kicker is that politicians still want to have it both ways, promising activist government to satisfy populist demands but also preaching of the wondrous powers of low-tax growth.

In 1965, the father of modern conservative economics, Milton Friedman, said “we are all Keynesians now,” referring to the broad bipartisan support for government spending to stimulate growth. The 2017 version would be this: We are all Keynesians now… but we’re also all free marketers, too.

Like girthsome tourists at a cruise-ship buffet, when American politicians are asked to choose between more spending or less taxation simply say “yes.”

The economically marginalized voters who helped put Trump over the top in the Upper Midwest explicitly rejected the conservative concept of less government and lower taxes four years ago. And four years before that, and four years before that…

These voters embraced Trump in large part because of his economic populism. That’s a fancy way to say: More spending and more government interventions in the economy. As Trump himself said, “prime the pump.”

It’s understandable then that the president and his party would not be keen to make cuts to either the shrinking pool of discretionary spending or to the entitlement programs looming out over the horizon.

What Republicans have seemingly failed to grasp is that you can’t spend more and tax less forever. Sooner or later the buffet runs out of eclairs or you run out of Lipitor.

[Watch Fox: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will join Shannon Bream tonight on “Fox News @ Night.” Tune in at 11 pm ET.]

“This ambiguity of terms appears to have been the result of a conflict between jealousy and conviction; between the desire of excluding such establishments at all events, and the persuasion that an absolute exclusion would be unwise and unsafe.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 26

Atlantic: “Many of the earliest defenders of Darwinism were linguists who saw similarities between the evolution of languages and species. … But natural selection is just one force of evolutionary change. Under its influence, genes become more (or less) common because their owners are more (or less) likely to survive and reproduce. But genes can also change in frequency for completely random reasons… That process is known as drift, and it took decades for evolutionary biologists to recognize that it’s just as important for evolution as natural selection. Linguists are still behind. It’s easy to see how languages could change through drift, as people randomly pick up the words and constructions they overhear. But when [Charles Darwin] wrote about evolving tongues, he said, ‘The better, the shorter, the easier forms are constantly gaining the upper hand, and they owe their success to their own inherent virtue.’ That’s a view purely based on natural selection, and it persists.”

Flag on the play? - Email us at
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

Trump net job-approval rating: -20 points
Change from one week ago: up 0.6 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.]

WaPo: “President Trump said Tuesday night that he has directed the government to ‘step up’ its vetting program for foreign nationals after authorities said an Uzbek immigrant killed eight and injured 11 in a terrorist attack in Manhattan. Trump wrote in a tweet, ‘I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!’ Trump, who has long advocated tougher screening of immigrants and other policies designed to prevent terrorism in the United States, did not specify which vetting program he was referring to or how it would change under his Tuesday order. White House officials had no immediate comment to explain the president’s tweet. It appeared Trump was referring to the U.S. government’s vetting programs for foreign nationals, as opposed to his controversial travel ban, which affected only a handful of majority-Muslim nations.”

Schumer strikes back, saying Trump should rescind cut proposals - WashEx: “Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responded to President Trump’s criticism Wednesday morning by calling on Trump to take back his proposed cuts to anti-terrorism funding. ‘I have always believed and continue to believe that immigration is good for America. President Trump, instead of politicizing and dividing America, which he always seems to do at times of national tragedy, should be focusing on the real solution — anti-terrorism funding — which he proposed cutting in his most recent budget,’ Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said in a statement Wednesday. ‘I’m calling on the President to immediately rescind his proposed cuts to this vital anti-terrorism funding,’ Schumer added. In a tweet, Schumer also criticized Trump for politicizing the attack.”

King says Trump shouldn’t play the blame game - WashEx: “Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., on Wednesday said he would advise President Trump not to blame Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., after an Islamic State-inspired attack in New York killed eight people and injured 12 more. ‘There’s definitely a role for the president to play as far as leadership,’ King told CNN. ‘And the president says that we should have more vetting going forward, I can understand that, but I would not be blaming anyone.’ … King added he would model his behavior on that of President George W. Bush in the aftermath of 9/11 by focusing on the victims and supporting law enforcement officers. He also stood by the diversity visa lottery system, which the attacker, Sayfullo Saipov, reportedly used to enter the country in 2010.”

Graham wants to strip terrorist of rights - The [S.C.] Post and Courier: “U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham says alleged New York attacker … should be held as an enemy combatant for intelligence gathering purposes. He also wants President Donald Trump to declare him as such, something the president said Wednesday he is open to considering. The day began with Graham, R-S.C., continuing to argue that under the laws of war, an enemy combatant can be held and questioned for intelligence gathering purposes without a lawyer present. … ‘There’s ample evidence to suggest that these attacks were motivated by radical Islamic thought, that he killed in the name of radical Islam, and that he is expressing his allegiance to ISIL,’ Graham told reporters in Washington on Wednesday.”

WaPo: “Debate intensified in President Trump’s political circle Tuesday over how aggressively to confront special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, dividing some of the president’s advisers and loyalists as the Russia investigation enters a new phase following charges against three former Trump campaign officials. Despite his growing frustration with a federal probe he has roundly dismissed, Trump has been cooperating with Mueller and lately has resisted attacking him directly, at the urging of his attorneys inside and outside the White House. But several prominent Trump allies, including former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, have said they think the president’s posture is too timid. Seeing the investigation as a political threat, they are clamoring for a more combative approach to Mueller that would damage his credibility and effectively kneecap his operation by cutting its funding.”

Mueller to interview Hope Hicks - 
Politico: “President Donald Trump’s longtime aide and current communications director, Hope Hicks, is scheduled to speak with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team in mid-November, following the president’s trip to Asia, multiple people familiar with the schedule told POLITICO. Mueller’s team is also expected to interview three or four other current White House officials as early as this week, according to an administration official. Mueller’s team already has interviewed former aides, including Trump’s first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and former press secretary Sean Spicer. But the latest round of interviews appears to mark a new phase of the investigation — hauling in current administration officials for daylong depositions.”

Papadopoulos says Trump camp agreed to Russia meeting - Bloomberg: “Former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos made a significant claim in an email: Top Trump campaign officials agreed to a pre-election meeting with representatives of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The message, if true, would bolster claims that Trump’s campaign attempted to collude with Russian interests. But it’s unclear whether Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was merely boasting when he sent the July 14, 2016, email to a Kremlin-linked contact. There’s also no indication such a meeting ever occurred. The email is cited in an FBI agent’s affidavit supporting criminal charges against Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy volunteer on Trump’s campaign. But it’s not included in court documents that detailed his secret guilty plea and his cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.”

Manafort mysteries deepen - 
NY Post: “Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager for President Trump, owns several US passports, used a phone and email account registered under a fake name and provided varying estimates of his wealth, federal investigators said in court documents to show he is a flight risk. Manafort and his longtime business associate Rick Gates surrendered Monday after they were hit with a 12-count indictment… The court filings from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators probing Moscow meddling in the 2016 election reveal that Manafort, 68, had three passports and had submitted applications for 10 more over the last few years. He also used the fake name on his phone and email accounts to travel to Mexico, China and Ecuador, the documents filed late Tuesday show. In the filings, the government laid out a compelling case that Manafort and Gates have the financial resources — including overseas bank accounts — foreign ties and extensive experience traveling abroad to flee prosecution.”

Newly revealed Russian ads skillfully divided Americans - WaPo: “As a group, the ads made visceral appeals to voters upset about illegal immigration, the declining economic fortunes of coal miners, gun ownership, the rising prominence of Muslims in some U.S. communities and many other issues. Some ads also explicitly called for people to attend political rallies amid a campaign season that already was among the most polarizing in recent U.S. history. … Another ad, from a Russian-controlled group called Heart of Texas, announced a rally for May 21, 2016, under the banner of ‘Stop Islamization of Texas.’ A separate Russian-controlled group, United Muslims of America, publicized a competing rally to ‘Save Islamic Knowledge’ at the same place and time, causing the two groups to face off in competing demonstrations in Houston…”

White House won’t rule out a Trump-Putin meeting in Asia -
 Politico: “The White House did not rule out the possibility that President Donald Trump will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin during his 12-day trip to Asia. Asked during a briefing with reporters on Tuesday whether a Putin meeting was in the works, a senior administration official said, ‘The president is going to have a number of bilateral meetings on the sidelines, but we’re not prepared yet to confirm those other than the ones that are being hosted by the host countries themselves.’”

The Hill: “Republicans are renewing their threat to change the Senate’s rules as they eye speeding up the confirmation process for President Trump’s nominees. GOP senators want to shrink the amount of debate time needed to confirm hundreds of the president’s picks, arguing Democrats are abusing the rules to slow-walk nominees and the GOP agenda. ‘I believe it is time to change the rules of the Senate. To change the rules so that President Trump can get his team in place,’ Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told reporters. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who like Barrasso is a member of GOP leadership, added that he was ‘fully supportive’ of changing the rules ‘if the rules are being abused.’”

Trump to meet with senators on DREAMers - 
Politico: “President Donald Trump has invited several Senate Republicans to the White House on Thursday to hash out details of a potential legislative measure on so-called Dreamers, according to multiple senators who plan to attend. The invitation list for the meeting, confirmed by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and others familiar with it, is still fluctuating, but at least a half-dozen senators who have privately been trying to hammer out an immigration plan are expected to attend. Trump wants to gauge the progress on Capitol Hill thus far of any legislative fix to the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program… Senate Republicans also want to pitch various security and enforcement proposals that would be paired with legislation that gives a pathway to legal status for DACA recipients and other young undocumented immigrants who came here as minors.”

WaPo: “A new Washington Post-Schar School poll finds that [Ralph Northam’s] lead has narrowed to five percentage points, down from 13 points a month ago. He leads among likely voters 49 percent to [Ed Gillespie’s] 44 percent, a margin that is not statistically significant. The Republican has closed a motivation gap and seen his share of support rise among supporters of President Trump, without driving away independents and moderates. Gillespie is still the underdog, but if he prevails next week, it will be because he found a way to thread the needle in the age of Trump, maintaining his appeal to establishment Republicans while also wading into the fever swamps of Trumpism. This matters, even if you don’t live in Virginia, because dozens of Republicans across the country are going to follow Gillespie’s playbook in 2018 if it works.”

Roy Moore tries to play nice with establishment, briefly - 
WaPo: “Roy Moore arrived in the Capitol to play an unfamiliar role: Republican conformist. By the time he left, he was once again a lightning rod for controversy. The hard-right former judge made his second trip to Washington on Tuesday as his party’s Senate nominee in Alabama. Unlike the last time he was in town, Moore decided to mingle with the Republican establishment he has villainized on the campaign trail. … As he made the rounds, some of Moore’s potential future Republican colleagues strained to separate themselves from him. One even attacked him head-on in a speech on the Senate floor. The visit offered a preview of the headaches Moore’s presence could cause for Senate Republican leaders should he prevail in a Dec. 12 special election to fill the seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”

 ‘The dashed dreams of Senate GOP’ - National Journal: “Wave elections in which one party wins nearly all of the contested congressional races have become the norm over the last decade. … This is a function of our fickle and turbulent politics. No one is ever satisfied with the politicians in power. Voters in both parties always want to drain the swamp. Even discounting the Trump administration’s looming legal troubles and inability to pass legislation, Republicans were going to face severe headwinds in next year’s midterms. So even with as favorable a map as Senate Republicans have in 2018 … the poisonous environment is prevailing. The problems have grown so severe that it’s now as likely that Democrats will gain seats next year as it is that Republicans will expand their narrow 52-seat majority. … Senate Republicans have gone from dreaming of a Senate supermajority to merely hoping to prevent any losses for 2018. The favorable map is likely to protect them from losing the majority, but their margin for error will be narrow.”

Trump’s opioid commission to seek boosts in treatment programs but not more funding - Politico

EPA head Pruitt issues new rules barring recipients of grant money from outside advising - NYT

“I don’t think he meant it affectionately.” – Rep. Jim Jordan R-Ohio on “The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino” when asked about a remark from his fellow Ohioan, former House Speaker John Boehner that Jordan is a “legislative terrorist.” 

“I’m a flat tax person. Tithe – 10%. Everyone pays. Earn $1.00 pay $0.10. Earn $80 Million pay $8 Million. Income from all sources included. Your employer gives you a car, health insurance, etc. you pay taxes on the value of the benefits. No Corporate tax. Corporations don’t earn income, stockholders do, they pay the tax. No deductions. You have 8 kids and a mortgage, that’s YOUR choice. Then Congress should have to decide where they are going to spend the money this raises. They will have to decide what programs are really important and which ones are not. No credit cards. If an ‘emergency’ arises, Congress would have to issue a special one-time revenue tax to pay for it based on the overall revenue received from regular taxes. All money from this special tax goes directly to pay for the emergency.  No borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. Is this too simple?” – Jean Corsetti, St. Petersburg, Fla.

[Ed. note: That’s not too simple, and actually quite elegant. But I think you are brushing too quickly past the central obstacle to such a system. Your federal government spends more than $4 trillion every year. And except for the money spent on servicing existing debts, every penny is the cherished object of some political constituency. There are moral objections about a flat tax, I know. Bu the practical barrier is spending. Americans love big government, even the ones who profess to abhor it. If you want a flat tax of 10 percent, you will first have to reduce spending by at least a quarter. And since you are quite prudently calling for a reserve fund, that would mean even less spending. As the Republicans in Congress are discovering, their inability to control spending hamstrings them on taxes.]

“‘...I have not seen any convincing evidence yet that Mueller is a partisan or that his inquest is motivated for political advantage....’ Surely you jest, Mr. Stirewalt! When I see a Podesta, a Clinton, or members of their immediate staffs indicted, I’ll be inclined to consider your assessment.  That remains highly unlikely, considering that Mueller as then-FBI Director failed to notify Congress that Russian interests we about to require significant equity in US uranium, which resulted in $145 million in donations to the Clinton Foundation, the slush fund that spent $9 on Clinton staffer travel and salaries for every buck (or less) to legit charitable recipients.” – Howard Bartlett, Casselberry, Fla.

[Ed. note: Well, Mr. Bartlett, I tend to view individuals based off their track records, and I tend to believe that if Robert Mueller was a hack it would have come out during the 33 years between him winning a Bronze Star in Vietnam and him retiring as FBI director. I am more than willing to hear evidence to the contrary, but if we have reached a point that even a record as exemplary as Mueller’s does not earn one credibility on these questions, we have bigger problems than the conduct of this particular inquest.] 

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

WGCL: “Philips Arena is trying something new this year. Adventurous fans attending the Hawks season opener got the first opportunity to taste a new item being served at concession stands. In addition to the regular fare, now tacos made with crickets are on the menu. Apparently, the crickets did really well this summer at Seattle Mariners’ games, so the Hawks are giving them a try in Atlanta. One man tried the six-legged snack in front of our cameras and he described them as ‘savory like sunflower seeds and crispy like chips.’ Aspire Food Group is the company that grows the crickets in Austin, Texas. They say crickets are healthy, high in protein, and an ecologically sustainable food. Right now, they’re only being sold in one place called the Taqueria near section 116.”

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.