The Corner

Wage War

In a November debate, Trump got the first question: about the minimum wage. He answered,

[W]e are a country that is being beaten on every front economically, militarily. There is nothing that we do now to win. . . . [T]axes too high, wages too high, we’re not going to be able to compete against the world. 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 stratum. But we can not do this if we are going to compete with the rest of the world. We just can’t do it (emphasis added).

Neil Cavuto asked a follow-up: “So do not raise the minimum wage?” He answered, “I would not do it.”

Two days later, Trump denied that he ever said that wages are too high–and also said, um, “Our wages are too high.” I think he’s got a point about his debate remarks. He could have been saying, in his Trumpian way, that if we raise the minimum wage too far and continue to have high taxes, we will be less competitive. But his comment two days later can’t be interpreted that way.

Trump went back to the subject in a conversation with Bill O’Reilly today. “There has to be a federal minimum wage,” said O’Reilly. “What would you set the minimum wage at?” Trump’s answer: “There doesn’t have to be. Well, I 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.” As the conversation continues, he appears to say that the federal minimum wage should be raised to $10 an hour but that states should be allowed to go higher than that.

You can see why the Democrats love this line of attack: Trump did say “our wages are too high” at least once, and those words fit a caricature of Republicans they are used to running against. But I’m not sure the charge will stick, because voters don’t seem to be holding Trump to anything he says, or to be expecting him to hold himself to it.


Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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