Trump advisers mystified over new endorsement of $10/hr federal minimum wage

At one point in the campaign, Donald Trump argued that America had lost its competitive edge in part because wages got too high. In fact, not only did he make that declaration during a November debate, he doubled down the next day on the argument, as Allahpundit noted at the time. Note well that the debate statement came as a direct answer about whether Trump would support raising the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, and Trump insisted he opposed it:

On Tuesday, Trump reversed himself and told Bill O’Reilly that he’d push it to $10 an hour, along with an eyebrow-raising shot at (supposedly) fellow Republicans not wanting to help people out. Yesterday, Trump confirmed that position at a press conference:

The Republican presidential nominee was pressed to provide a specific number by Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly, who said, “there has to be a federal minimum wage.”

Trump initially dismissed that suggestion.

“There doesn’t have to be,” Trump said. “I would leave it and raise it somewhat. You need to help people. I know it’s not very Republican to say.”

“Ten bucks?” O’Reilly asked.

“I would say 10. I would say 10,” Trump agreed. “But with the understanding that somebody like me is going to bring back jobs. I don’t want people to be in that $10 category for very long. But the thing is, Bill, let the states make the deal.”

So … what prompted this change now, and what will Trump propose to effect it? The Hill’s Peter Schroeder reports that even his campaign advisers aren’t really sure:

Trump’s latest position puts him at odds with conservative thinkers and most of the business community, which argues that a government-mandated wage hike would just mean fewer workers as businesses cut costs to meet the new requirement.
Even Trump’s own economic brain trust could not explain how the GOP nominee decided $10 per hour should be the new standard.
“I saw the statement that he made on TV, but I haven’t had the chance to talk to him in the last couple weeks about this,” Stephen Moore, an economist at the Heritage Foundation who is advising the Trump campaign on economic issues, told The Hill on Wednesday.
“I don’t know exactly what he was endorsing. The $10 minimum wage, that was the first I’d heard of that …Sometimes he says one thing, and sometimes he says another about this, so I’m not exactly sure where he’s at on this.”

That’s a handy statement when it comes to Trump’s policy positions. It’s not as if this is some esoteric issue on a low-priority policy area, either. The debate over the minimum wage hits squarely in the center of jobs and the economy, an area where Trump claims expertise as both an investor and an employer. Trump has offered no hint of any development in his thinking on the minimum wage, so it appears to be entirely a reaction to criticism of his previous position by Democrats.

That’s been a hallmark of the Trump campaign all along. At times, it appears that Trump is winging it on policy, trying to pander to whichever constituency has his attention at that moment. Trump has repeatedly shifted positions on a number of issues, leaving supporters to try to square the circle by claiming he’d meant one thing while saying something entirely different.  This one will be tough to write off like that, though — Trump clearly opposed a federal minimum-wage hike until he supported it. No wonder his advisers have vertigo.

Raising the minimum wage will not give workers a raise for long. It will force business owners to either raise prices or cut staff to cover the artificially imposed cost increase, and marginal businesses may fail, creating a net loss of jobs and a zero-dollar-per-hour wage for those who fall into the ranks of the unemployed. We have raised the minimum wage dozens of times over the past four decades, and yet the same problems persist. Perhaps the government intervention in wage markets may be the cause of these problems, or at least a contributing factor.