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Donald Trump, a literal billionaire, just said on national TV that wages are too high

Dylan Matthews is a senior correspondent and head writer for Vox's Future Perfect section and has worked at Vox since 2014. He is particularly interested in global health and pandemic prevention, anti-poverty efforts, economic policy and theory, and conflicts about the right way to do philanthropy.

Within minutes of the Fox Business Republican presidential debate starting, frontrunner Donald Trump committed a classic Kinsley gaffe: accidentally saying what he actually meant. When asked if he supports an increase in the minimum wage, Trump explained his opposition by saying that high wages make the US uncompetitive: "Taxes too high, wages too high, we're not going to be able to compete against the world."

Naturally, Democrats seized on the idea that wages are currently "too high," given how sclerotic median wage growth has been over the past few decades:

But while Trump's answer was impolitic, he's right that this is the mechanism through which conservatives think the minimum wage hampers employment growth. The idea is that there is a class of workers whose skills aren't enough to command the minimum wage. In a world without a minimum, they'd be hired at a lower rate, but given a minimum, they're out of work. This is a pretty simplistic look at how this works; the minimum wage also decreases turnover and is partly passed along through price increases and wage compression, all of which reduces the negative effect of a minimum on employment. But the case against the minimum depends entirely on the wage being "too high" for some class of worker.

Ben Carson's answer to the same question didn't spark the immediate backlash that Trump's remarks did, but he basically said the same thing: that "high wages" are to blame for unemployment now, unemployment that wouldn't exist if we could just pay the unemployed less money.