Donald Trump said this morning that he would support a $10 federal minimum wage—but don't tell him he said so.
During a press conference, the Republican nominee said he supports raising the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour, though he said he would leave states the authority to set their own minimum wages.
"The minimum wage has to go up," Trump said. "At least $10. It has to go up."
Trump said he would let states be in charge of setting their own wages, but then immediately offered a counter-argument by saying that lower minimum wages in other states puts high wage states, like New York, at a disadvantage. He also responded to a request for clarification about whether he meant that the federal minimum wage should be increased to $10 and hour by saying that, yes, he meant the "federal" mininum wage.
Like his positions on many policy issues, it can be difficult to nail down exactly what Trump thinks about the minimum wage. Over the course of his campaign has given conflicting responses on the topic, sometimes in the course of the same interview.
During an interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly on Tuesday night, for example, Trump gave answers that seemed to be at odds with themselves, and with his previous opinions.
Here's how the exchange went down: O'Reilly pushed Trump to give a specific number for a minimum wage, arguing that "there has to be a minimum wage." Initially, Trump disagreed with that notion.
"There doesn't have to be," Trump said, before immediately contradicting himself by saying he would "leave it and raise it somewhat."
"You need to help people. I know it's not very Republican to say, but you need to help people," Trump said.
Pressed again by O'Reilly for a specific figure, the Trump said he would support a $10 federal minimum wage, and then said he would "let the states make the deal."
If you're willing to tilt your head and squint a little, it seems like Trump was saying that he would support a $10 minimum wage but would leave it up to the states to implement it. That might be giving him too much credit, though, considering that it would directly contradict his earlier statements on the subject (and considering that his grasp of federalism seems tenuous at best).
When O'Reilly tried to clarify that Trump supported a $10 federal minimum wage and allowing states to do what they wanted, Trump pushed back.
"No, you have me on the record saying the states are going to raise it higher than that," he said.
— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) July 27, 2016
The interview was par for the course for Trump, who has shown for months that he has no clear position on the minimum wage.
Last August, Trump made headlines for saying, during an appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe, that a low minimum wage was a good thing for the country.
In November, at a Republican presidential primary debate, Trump argued that "we have to leave it the way it is," because a higher minimum wage would be bad for the economy.
"But we cannot do this if we are going to compete with the rest of the world," he said, when asked about support for a $15 minimum wage. "We just can't do it."
By May of this year, Trump's position had seemingly evolved when he told CNN he would be in favor of raising the federal minimum wage from the current level of $7.25 (29 states and Washington, D.C., already have minimum wages set above the federal floor).
None of this is directly contradictory—it's possible that Trump believes the current $7.25 minimum wage is too low but also believes a $15 minimum wage is too high, for example. But that's exactly why O'Reilly was asking him about it on Tuesday night, giving the GOP nominee a chance to clarify and substantiate his position on something that will certainly be a point of contention in the general election.
Instead, however, Trump just offered incomplete ideas and general platitudes, leaving voters with no idea what he actually supports.
Much of Trump's presidential campaign has been based around increasing employment—something he reiterated during Tuesday's appearance on O'Reilly, saying "somebody like me is going to bring jobs back" in the midst of his answer on the minimum wage.
A $10 per hour, minimum wage would likely have the opposite effect. Hiking the federal minimum wage to $10.10 could cost the economy between 500,000 and 1 million jobs, acocrding to a 2014 analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, although CBO analysts said those theoretical losses could be mitigated by other consequences of a higher base wage.
It's also worth noting that it wasn't all that long ago that supporting a $10 minimum wage was considered a progressive move.
President Barack Obama, in his 2014 State of the Union address, called for raising the national minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Two months later, Connecticut became the first state in the nation to approve a $10.10 minimum wage, to the cheers of progressive activists.
Now, just a little more than two years later, those same activists have left the idea of a $10.10 minimum wage in the rearview mirror as they've sped down the road towards a $15 minimum wage, or more.
At that rate, we'll be hearing calls for a $20 minimum wage by the time the 2018 midterms roll around. Who knows what Trump would think about that?