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Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg July 26, 2016

Sanders: Trump would allow states to lower the minimum wage

Donald Trump is a huge fan of the word "huge." At the Democratic convention, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders relished the chance to turn the word against the GOP nominee.

"While Donald Trump believes in huge tax breaks -- huuuuge tax breaks  -- for billionaires, he believes that states should actually have the right to lower the minimum wage below $7 and a quarter," Sanders said.

Trump’s stance on the federal minimum wage – it’s currently $7.25 – has been a moving target, and we’ve done our best to track it.

Sanders’ charge lines up most closely with what Trump said during a May 8, 2016, interview on NBC’s Meet the Press. Host Chuck Todd aimed to clarify Trump’s views. Here’s the key exchange:

Todd: "Should the federal government set a floor, and then you let the states --"

Trump: "No, I'd rather have the states go out and do what they have to do. And the states compete with each other, not only other countries, but they compete with each other, Chuck. So I like the idea of let the states decide. But I think people should get more. I think they're out there. They're working. It is a very low number. You know, with what's happened to the economy, with what's happened to the cost. I mean, it's just -- I don't know how you live on $7.25 an hour. But I would say let the states decide."

So while Trump voiced sympathy for low-wage workers, he rejected the idea that Washington should set a minimum and carried it further to say that states should use the wage "to compete with each other."

If Trump had expressed that policy consistently, there would be no debate on his views. But here are other excerpts from Trump on the minimum wage:

Featured Fact-check

• In an interview with MSNBC in August 2015, Trump said, "Having a low minimum wage is not a bad thing for this country."

• During the Republican debate in Milwaukee in November 2015, Trump said wages are "too high" and, when asked whether he would raise the minimum wage, said, "I would not do it."

• On ABC’s This Week on May 8, 2016, host George Stephanopoulos asked Trump, "Minimum wage -- all through the primaries, you were against an increase. Now you're saying you're looking at it. So what's your bottom line on this?" Trump responded, "Well, I am looking at it and I haven't decided in terms of numbers. But I think people have to get more." When Stephanopoulos asked whether that’s a change, Trump answered, "Well, sure it's a change. I'm allowed to change. You need flexibility."

Looking at all his statements, we see that most of the time Trump says that he would like to see people earning more than the current minimum wage. But on the separate issue of whether Washington should mandate a hike, he is at best ambivalent, and more often than not, he opposes that.

Our ruling

Sanders said that Trump believes that states should have the right to lower the minimum wage. Looking strictly at Trump’s words, at one point, in that Meet the Press interview, he said states should have the right to set their own minimum wage and rejected the idea that the federal government should set it for the country.

The only quibble with Sanders’ statement is he talked about what Trump believes, as if Trump’s policy is fixed and steady. It isn’t that simple. Trump suggested in one interview that he might consider raising the federal minimum wage. But most of the time, he has not expressed that view. Nor has Trump said anything recently to clarify his position.

Taking Trump’s ambiguity into account, we rate this claim Mostly True.

Our Sources

PolitiFact, Elizabeth Warren gets better of Donald Trump on his stance on abolishing federal minimum wage, May 19, 2016

NBC News, Meet the Press, transcript, May 8, 2016

ABC News, This Week, transcript, May 8, 2016

Reuters, "Trump: 'Having a low minimum wage is not a bad thing,’ " Aug. 20, 2015

Time, Republican debate transcript, Nov. 11, 2015

PolitiFact, Hillary Clinton: Donald Trump wants to get rid of the federal minimum wage, July 8, 2016

PolitiFact, Comparing the economic agendas of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, July 22, 2016

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Sanders: Trump would allow states to lower the minimum wage

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