This morning, I was linked to an article (actually, a transcript; NPR is marvelous in providing transcripts of its radio pieces) regarding a campaign in California to increase the minimum wage. That article may be found here.
The campaigner is an unlikely one: a multimillionaire, generally held to be very right-wing (in America, remember; our "left-wing" candidates are, by European standards, a long way to the right of Michael Portillo), but he seems to have understood the fundamental issue at hand.
His point is that with the minimum wage not being a living wage, some means to support those relying on it is necessary. Minimum wage jobs are generally not exportable; that status only applies to middle tiers of jobs, leading to a large gap between minimum wage and executive-level jobs, but I digress. Minimum wage earners will be located in the US, and it is in the national interest for them not to starve, hence food stamps. However, what Mr. Unz has worked out is that food stamps are an unnecessary complication; the lesser evil, the lesser government intervention, is to require that employers pay a living wage. Regulations are cheaper than interventions.
Now, ideally, companies would be able to figure out what Henry Ford worked out over a century ago, and the CEO of Costco continues to espouse: that paying their employees enough to live well on results in more demand for their products, and thus more success for the company overall. Ideally, regulations to require a living wage wouldn't be necessary. Unfortunately, America's particular outlook on economics doesn't seem to look beyond the next set of quarterly results, or the share price (which is almost entirely divorced from any actual metric of results).