Today’s News & Commentary — March 24, 2017

President Trump’s Labor Secretary pick Alexander Acosta promised at his Senate hearings not to let the partisan political considerations affect his administration of the Department of Labor.  His statements came in response to concerns expressed by Democrats that he had looked away as his subordinates at the Justice Department under George Bush deliberately preferenced conservatives in their hiring.  The Senate labor committee will vote next week on whether to advance Acosta’s nomination to a full Senate vote.

The Atlantic published an article on Wednesday on the work of Princeton economist Alan Krueger, who argues that an overlooked cause of the decline in American men’s labor force participation rate is poor health.  Only 89% of American men ages 25 to 54 were either working or looking for work, the second-lowest percentage of OECD countries (Italy has the lowest).  Krueger places blame on opioid addiction and alcoholism, but also on the far more common conditions of obesity and diabetes — health problems uniquely prevalent amongst Americans. Researchers have already pointed out the increased risk of alcoholism that unemployment causes.  Krueger’s work implies that one way to increase labor force participation would be to make greater investments into public health.

President Trump’s first Labor Secretary pick Andy Puzder will be stepping down from his role as CKE Restaurants CEO in April.  CKE Restaurants is the parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s.  Puzder claims that the nomination process was not a factor in his decision to step down as CEO.