Today’s News and Commentary — March 30, 2017

The New York Times reports that Ivanka Trump, daughter of President Trump, “is becoming an official government employee.”  She will serve as an unpaid adviser with the title of assistant to the president.  This move appears to have been spurred by criticism from ethics experts, including former White House ethics lawyers, Norman L. Eisen and Richard W. Painter, who served in the Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations, respectively.  In a letter to the White House counsel, the two ethics experts suggested that “[Ivanka Trump’s informal advising] arrangement appears designed to allow Ms. Trump to avoid the ethics, conflict-of-interest and other rules that apply to White House employees.”  In a statement released yesterday, Ms. Trump said, “I have heard the concerns some have with my advising the president in my personal capacity while voluntarily complying with all ethics rules, and I will instead serve as an unpaid employee in the White House Office, subject to all of the same rules as other federal employees.”  Ms. Trump’s issue portfolio appears to include maternity leave and affordable child care, two issues she supported during the campaign.

This week President Trump called for review of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.  The controversial Clean Power Plan established carbon pollution standards and requires the states to create and enact plans to reach these emission targets.  At the ceremony where President Trump signed this executive order, Trump told miners present that this executive action means they are “going back to work.”  Trump’s statements have come under attack because they “den[y] economic realities.”  The demand for coal has slowed because of the availability of less expensive and cleaner burning natural gas and increasingly affordable alternative energy sources.  Automation of coal jobs has also lead to decreased employment in the industry.  These market conditions suggest that even if Trump is successful in rolling back the Clean Power Plan, the coal jobs that President Trump has promised to revive will not be returning to historic highs.  Read more about the impact of the Clean Power Plan on jobs from OnLabor here.

In international news, the New York Times published a piece highlighting legislation in Iceland that would require employers to show that they are paying men and women equally.  Despite having equal pay laws on the books for the past fifty years, government figures suggest that Icelandic women earn 14 percent to 20 percent less than men.  Although Icelandic companies have embraced voluntary measures to decrease the gender wage gap, they have been resistant to mandatory measures.  The legislation would require the country’s largest companies and government agencies to be audited beginning in 2018 and receive certificates of compliance with pay parity rules from auditors.  Businesses with more than 25 employees would have until 2022 to conform to the law’s requirements.  Read more here.