Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has taken a variety of positions on the minimum wage during his campaign, and Tuesday night was no different. This time though, his changing stances came much closer together than normal.
In an interview with Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly, Trump took three different positions on the issue in less than 30 seconds.
When O’Reilly said to Trump, “There has to be a federal minimum wage. What would you set the federal minimum wage at?” Trump’s immediate response was, “There doesn’t have to be,” suggesting that he believes there doesn’t have to be a federal minimum wage at all.
But with his very next breath Trump went on to say, “I would leave it and raise it somewhat. You need to help people, and I know it’s not very Republican to say.” That would indicate that he believes that the wage needs to be raised because wages are too low.
And yet when Bill O’Reilly asked specifically what Trump thought of a $10 federal minimum wage, Trump responded, “I would say ten. I would say ten… But the thing is we’ll let the states do it.”
If a minimum wage increase is left up to the states, however, that doesn’t require any action from the federal government. And that’s exactly what’s been happening since the minimum wage was last raised by Congress nine years ago: Republicans have blocked attempts to increase the federal floor, while a majority of states have increased wages on their own. But that still leaves 21 states with the $7.25 minimum, meaning residents making the minimum wage have experienced no increase.
O’Reilly himself tried to pin down Trump’s position on the minimum wage toward the end of their exchange, to no avail. “So we have you on the record as $10 minimum wage federally and states can do whatever they want?” he said. “No,” Trump replied. “You have me on the record as saying the states are going to raise it higher than that.”
Trump’s contradictions continued on Wednesday morning. In a press conference, he said, “The minimum wage has to go up… At least $10. But it has to go up… Federal.”
Yet in the very next moment he said, “But I think that states should really call the shots.” Those two ideas are at odds: if the states are left to their own devices, that won’t mean a federal increase, and some states will very likely choose not to increase their wages.
Trump’s position on the minimum wage began to take shape on the debate stage last November. After saying that “wages [are] too high,” he added, “I hate to say it, but we have to leave it the way it is. People have to go out, they have to work really hard and have to get into that upper stratosphere. We can not do this if we are going to compete with the rest of the world. We just can’t do it.”
Then in May he changed his mind. In an interview with CNN, he said of raising the minimum wage, “I’m actually looking at that because I am very different from most Republicans. I mean you have to have something that you can live on,” saying he was “open” to raising it. Yet he still maintained that “if you start playing around too much with the lower level, the lower level number, you’re not going to be competitive.”
Just four days later, he admitted his original position had changed. When asked about his evolution on ABC’s “This Week,” he said, “Sure it’s a change, I’m allowed to change. We need flexibility.” Later that same day on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he said, “I would like to see an increase of some magnitude… I don’t know how people make it on $7.25 an hour.” Yet he also added, “I’d rather leave it to the states. Let the states decide.”
Even Trump’s own campaign manager may not quite know where the candidate stands. In an interview with CBS This Morning on Wednesday, Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort was asked about Trump’s comments to O’Reilly and specifically whether Trump believes in raising the federal minimum wage. He replied simply, “Donald said what he did,” adding that a deeper explanation would be included in upcoming economic policy speeches.This article has been updated with comments from Trump’s Wednesday morning press conference.