**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**
On the roster: U.S. sees second straight decline in life expectancy - I’ll Tell You What: ‘He took the roast beast’ - Can you kick it? House GOP offers one-month budget - Prosecutors review uranium deal tied to Clintons - Show your work
U.S. SEES SECOND STRAIGHT DECLINE IN LIFE EXPECTANCY
In 1917, the average life expectancy for an American man was just a little more than 48 years, 54 years for a woman.
A century later, the life expectancy for an American male is more than 76 years, while women can expect to live an average of 81 years.
That’s downright amazing and incontrovertible proof of the success of the American experiment in improving the lives of our people.
But most of the nearly three decades’ worth of gains in longevity had been accomplished 20 years ago. Since then, improvements have slowed and now, for the second straight year, declined.
According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control, life expectancy declined in 2016, the first two-year decline since a flu epidemic hit the country in 1962 and 1963.
But this one doesn’t look like a blip.
A companion report on addiction and overdoses reveals the cause for the decline. An estimated 63,600 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2016 – tripling the death rate from overdoses since the beginning of the century. Overdose death climbed 21 percent from 2015 to 2016 alone.
What the statistics cannot encompass, though, are all of the other ways in which drug addiction, particularly opioids, is sapping the strength, health and productivity of the nation. The White House put the economic cost of opioid abuse in 2015 at more than half a trillion dollars, but even that cannot account for the totality of the damage.
Looked at narrowly, one could conclude that as long as one avoids drugs, everything is okay. If you can survive until age 65, after all, you can still expect to live another 18 years if you are a man and another 20 years if you are a woman.
But that’s not how societies work, especially with epidemics like these. This represents a winnowing that could leave the nation badly out of balance.
The significance of increased death rates among younger Americans is compounded by another trend: Declining birth rates. The percentage of American women giving birth in 2016 hit an all-time low as fewer women in their 20s had children.
Both of these trends can trace their roots to an unlikely seeming combination of affluence and despair. The choice to delay marriage and child bearing is one that typically only women in affluent, industrialized countries can make. And, affluent families also tend to have fewer children, a relatively recent turn away from the historical norm.
While delaying the start of a family and limiting its size once undertaken can be sound choices for individuals, these trends are also reflective of a more cautious view of the future held by many Americans. Starting and expanding a family is, in many ways, the ultimate expression of confidence in what is to come.
The ways in which despair has driven the overdose epidemic are more obvious. Affluent, healthy Americans have always been prone to see addiction as the product of weak character among members of the lower classes, poverty and hopelessness.
That’s not to say that external factors aren’t driving some of this expansion in dependency and death, but it is also important to see the ways in which our collective “affluenza” have helped bring us to this saddening strait. Only a society rich enough to produce pain medicines this powerful and make them available from the top of the economic ladder all the way to the bottom could find itself here.
It would be comforting to think of addiction as a problem limited to backwoods, hollers, tenements and trailer parks but the facts tell us the truth. Affluent suburbs and other well-heeled neighborhoods have felt the pain.
America is not in demographic crisis… yet. But as politicians look into the near future, they will increasingly be forced to confront these issues. Economic growth might help, but that hasn’t always worked in the past. Social programs might help, but there have been many unfortunate failures, including unintended consequences from past efforts.
The hardest part may be for politicians to admit that the problems that ail the nation are beyond the powers of government to fix.
THE RULEBOOK: NEAR AND FAR
“The error which limits republican government to a narrow district … seems to owe its rise and prevalence chiefly to the confounding of a republic with a democracy… in a democracy, the people meet and exercise the government in person; in a republic, they assemble and administer it by their representatives and agents. A democracy, consequently, will be confined to a small spot. A republic may be extended over a large region.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 14
[Don’t miss your chance! - We’ll be sharing our picks tomorrow of some of the best journalism of the year. But we want to hear from you. Send your recommendations to
firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of the day today.]
TIME OUT: TRY A LITTLE TENDERNESS
At Christmastime do you hear “sleigh bells ring” or “the herald angels sing?” How about “nobody knows what I feel inside. All I know, I walked away and cried?” Author Nicholas Dawidoff explores how the soulful lamentations of Otis Redding have become seasonal staples for many. New Yorker: “In this insecure time of year, many dread the feelings of Christmas. What soothes and encourages [a struggling home-health care worker from New Haven, Conn.] is music—especially the music of Otis Redding, who communicated vulnerability with such feeling that, she said, ‘He is the song. You believe he’s been through it.’ Redding died fifty years ago … a loss that only deepens the good-sad feeling of listening to him right before Christmas. His great subject was unguarded desire, and, especially during this time of year, his music, his life, and his untimely death express the yearning to survive a cold season, get through, be warm and fed and fine.”
Flag on the play? - Email us at
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
Trump net job-approval rating: -22 points
Change from one week ago: down 0.8 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: ‘HE TOOK THE ROAST BEAST’
This week Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss the tax bill, the chances of a government shutdown and what every Christmas dinner should have. Plus, behold the magic of the Instant Pot. Dana’s got the mailbag and Chris has his hands full with tax-themed trivia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE
CAN YOU KICK IT? HOUSE GOP OFFERS ONE-MONTH BUDGET
AP: “House Republicans early Thursday unveiled a new, stripped-down spending bill to prevent a government shutdown this weekend and allow quarreling lawmakers to punt most of their unfinished business into the new year. The bill would keep the government operating through Jan. 19 and permit lawmakers – Republicans and Democrats – to head home for the holidays. It would delay battles over the budget, health care and immigration into January, denying Democrats wins that they had hoped to score this year. Failure to pass the measure would trigger a government shutdown at midnight Friday, which would amount to a political pratfall just after the GOP scored a major win on a landmark tax bill. …President Donald Trump still tried to blame Democrats… ‘House Democrats want a SHUTDOWN for the holidays in order to distract from the very popular, just passed, Tax Cuts. House Republicans, don’t let this happen. Pass the C.R. TODAY and keep our Government OPEN!' Trump tweeted.”
Look to add electronic surveillance extension - Reuters: “Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives are working to build support to temporarily extend the National Security Agency’s expiring internet surveillance program by tucking it into a stop-gap funding measure, lawmakers said. … Lawmakers leaving a Republican conference meeting on Wednesday evening said it was not clear whether the stop-gap bill had enough support to avert a partial government shutdown on Saturday, or whether the possible addition of the Section 702 extension would impact its chances for passage. It remained possible lawmakers would vote on the short-term extension separate from the spending bill.”
GOPers drop demands for fast action on ObamaCare, other issues - NYT: “Only days ago, Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, said she would vote for the tax bill because she had secured a promise from the majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, to include two health care provisions to stabilize insurance markets in an end-of-the-year spending measure. On Wednesday, she dropped that demand and said she hoped it would be passed in early 2018. ‘It looks like the Christmas present of lower health insurance premiums will now have to be a Valentine’s Day present,’ said Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, who had joined Ms. Collins’s demand.”
Anxiety grows over children’s insurance program - WaPo: “Congress appears unlikely this week to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which has become a crucial element in broader negotiations over how to fund the government. If no decision comes by Friday, then lawmakers are likely to take up the issue in early January – but with each delay, the pressure grows on families to find their own solutions. … Federal funding for CHIP stopped flowing on Sept. 30. A report put out by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute published on Wednesday noted that states are running out of money faster than anticipated. Half will have no money for the program by January’s end if nothing is done. Nearly 2 million children would lose insurance by the end of January, the report said.”
McConnell offers January vote on DREAMers, immigration - Politico: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will bring an immigration bill to the floor by the end of January if lawmakers and the White House can reach a compromise, he said in a statement Wednesday. McConnell acknowledged that a bipartisan group of senators has engaged in discussions with the Trump administration about legislation regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which offers work permits to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States at a young age and which President Donald Trump is rescinding. The conversations also covered border security, interior enforcement and changes to the legal immigration system, according to the majority leader. ‘If negotiators reach an agreement on these matters by the end of January, I will bring it to the Senate floor for a free-standing vote,’ he said.”
SupCo gives Trump, Congress time to make a deal - Politico: “…there was no recorded dissent on Wednesday as the high court instructed lower courts to hold off demanding any more documents from federal agencies until a ruling is reached on the Trump administration’s effort to dismiss five lawsuits pending in California that challenge the move to end DACA.”
Cochran expected to step aside after spending package - Politico: “The 80-year-old’s feeble performance has fueled expectations – among senators and aides who’ve witnessed his physical and mental decline firsthand – that [Sen. Thad Cochran] will step down from the Appropriations chairmanship early next year, or resign from the Senate altogether. ‘The understanding is that he will leave after Jan. 1,’ said a Republican senator who serves on the Appropriations Committee. ‘That’s what most of us believe will happen.’”
Trump will have to wait to sign tax cut - Bloomberg: “President Donald Trump plans to sign the tax bill on Jan. 3 to ensure automatic spending cuts to Medicare and other programs don’t take effect, according to a House Republican aide familiar with the plans. … Trump and GOP leaders have repeatedly said the president would sign the legislation before Christmas.”
PROSECUTORS REVIEW URANIUM DEAL TIED TO CLINTONS
NBC News: “On the orders of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Justice Department prosecutors have begun asking FBI agents to explain the evidence they found in a now dormant criminal investigation into a controversial uranium deal that critics have linked to Bill and Hillary Clinton, multiple law enforcement officials told NBC News. The interviews with FBI agents are part of the Justice Department’s effort to fulfill a promise an assistant attorney general made to Congress last month to examine whether a special counsel was warranted to look into what has become known as the Uranium One deal, a senior Justice Department official said. At issue is a 2010 transaction in which the Obama Administration allowed the sale of U.S. uranium mining facilities to Russia’s state atomic energy company. Hillary Clinton was secretary of state at the time, and the State Department was one of nine agencies that agreed to approve the deal after finding no threat to U.S. national security.”
FBI deputy director to answer questions on Clinton email probe - Reuters: “The FBI’S deputy director, Andrew McCabe, will appear for a closed-door interview on Thursday with two key U.S. congressional committees, after Republicans asked him to discuss the bureau’s handling of its Hillary Clinton email probe. The Justice Department confirmed in a letter on Wednesday to the chairmen of the House of Representatives Judiciary and Oversight committees that McCabe will sit for a transcribed interview, but said McCabe will not be permitted to discuss anything related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.”
Nunes-led group quietly building counterattack on Mueller - Politico: “The people familiar with [Rep. Devin Nunes’] plans said the goal is to highlight what some committee Republicans see as corruption and conspiracy in the upper ranks of federal law enforcement. The group hopes to release a report early next year detailing their concerns about the DOJ and FBI, and they might seek congressional votes to declassify elements of their evidence. … Republicans in the Nunes-led group suspect the FBI and DOJ have worked either to hurt Trump or aid his former campaign rival Hillary Clinton, a sense that has pervaded parts of the president’s inner circle.”
Effort to block Mueller firing goes slack - WaPo: “The legislation, which would allow a panel of federal judges to review orders to fire the special counsel, was intended to prevent President Trump from pushing out Mueller before he completes his investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. But two different bipartisan proposals have been mired in negotiations for months. And despite continuing signs from the president that he is unhappy with Mueller’s investigation – which prompted the initial call for the legislation – Republicans appear to be losing their resolve to act.”
Prosecutors probe adoption foundation as possible Kremlin front - Bloomberg: “The foundation, called the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative (HRAGI), offers a window into Russian efforts to influence U.S. politics before the presidential election. It was financed by $500,000 in donations, mostly from wealthy Russians with ties to Petr Katsyv, deputy director of Russian Railways and a longtime acquaintance of Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika. Rather than a nonprofit helping unite Americans with Russian adoptees, the foundation was a lobbying vehicle against sanctions.”
Flynn ties may derail ambassadorship for McFarland - The Hill: “Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who oversees [KT McFarland’s nomination to serve as ambassador to Singapore], said the new questions about McFarland’s testimony made her nomination more ‘difficult.’ ‘Nominees that have other productive lives they can lead probably have to assess themselves whether it makes a lot of sense to continue on because it does put your life on hold,’ Corker said. ‘Before any of these other things came out, there were significant Democratic objections to this nominee — the nominee is aware of that. This obviously makes it more difficult.’”
The Judge’s Ruling: Watch for ‘lying traps’ - Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano on the legal hazards faced by members of Team Trump: “The practical effect of Mueller’s acquisition of the transition emails could be devastating to White House staff who once worked for the transition. Many of them have been interviewed by the FBI while no doubt being ignorant of the fact that the FBI had read their emails. Stated differently, the FBI was in a position to lead Trump White House staff members into a lying trap -- just as it did with retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn -- by asking them questions to which the FBI already had the answers.” More here.
Trump commutes prison sentence of Kosher meatpacker - The Hill
Has Trump convinced Hatch to renege on Senate deal with Romney? - Atlantic
George Will: ‘The survival of the shrillest’ - WaPo
AUDIBLE: ANY WORD ON EPIPHANY? SHROVE TUESDAY?
“Thank you, President Trump, for letting us say ‘Merry Christmas’ again.” – A line, spoken by a young girl, in a new ad from the main Trump super PAC encouraging Americans to express their gratitude to the president.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“We are now less than 2 weeks away from legal marijuana here in California. As a resident, I’m excited about the potential tax windfall, but am not sure about how I feel about legal weeds shops that have sprouted up everywhere. What are your predictions for this major legislation?” – Mike Doyle, Orange County, Calif.
[Ed. note: Vice taxes are as appealing to politicians as the vices themselves are to those who partake. Proceeds from gambling, alcohol, tobacco and, now, ganga look like free money to lawmakers whose constituents always want more spending but fewer taxes. Marijuana use is already quite prevalent in California (duuuude…) but the profusion of pot shops will certainly change the culture. California, as well as Massachusetts, which is also about to, ahem, light up sales of pot for recreational use, in having seen Colorado and Washington undertake similar efforts. The big question hanging over cannabis as both a business and stream of revenue for state governments is how the feds are going to treat what is still a controlled substance. There have been some mixed messages from the Trump administration, but so far the Justice Department hasn’t followed through on tough talk about a crackdown.]
“A tax cut for the super-rich is a cut for all of us. They provide income for the middle class. That’s a hard sell because most can’t even dream of being in that place. … This is an economic growth package accomplished through tax cuts. The middle class receives most of the benefit with higher income and more economic opportunities. The super-rich will create them.” – Jim Neslon, Eagan, Minn.
[Ed. note: Certainly that is the belief of those who wrote the bill. Democrats tend to focus their efforts in economic stimulus on creating more demand on the economy through government expenditures and/or tax cuts focused on lower incomes. Republicans tend to focus on increasing the supply of capital for investment, believing that the growth will “trickle down” to the masses. Economists will never stop debating the relative merits of those approaches, but we know that the success or failure of this gambit will depend on corporations and the ultra-rich actually investing their windfall rather than pocketing the proceeds. Bonuses like the ones several major employers announced as a reward for Congress passing the cuts are nice (especially if you’re getting one) and will produce economic activity as recipients spend them. For the tax plan to be a success, though, companies need to spend big on new equipment, facilities and operations. If they do that, it could produce lasting growth. If companies instead reward employees and shareholders as well as increasing cash reserves, then the plan will be a bust.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
SHOW YOUR WORK
WKYC: “A college student in Kansas City was determined to finish her college finals on time, even if that meant going through labor when the exam was due. Nayzia Thomas, a sophomore at Johnson County Community College, continued her studies of psychology for 39 weeks until her baby son ultimately gave her what she could no longer avoid: the completion of childbirth. … ‘It wasn’t due until the end of the week,’ said Thomas to Yahoo! Lifestyle. ‘But my goal was to try to have everything done before. [I thought] before all this gets crazy, let me hurry up and finish this final.’ … Her tweet showcasing her studies blew up and went viral, receiving nearly 28,000 retweets and 133,000 likes. She followed up with a post-labor follow-up, showing the mother and father bedside with their newborn. Even through a series of events which would be an impossible task with so much pressure, Thomas completed the semester with a 3.5 GPA.”
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.