Score, I have some time for thinking! Pretty tired of doing.
Government-provided welfare services like food, medical and housing assistance enable employers to pay lower wages.
True, I say. I would argue the same points that I'm sure you've heard elsewhere, but that's beating a dead horse.
...people need to pay for housing and health and food, "the money has to come from somewhere," if some of it comes from the government, it doesn't have to come so much from work, so people are less inclined to work, so employers have to make working more attractive, ergo higher wages.
No, I think employers aren't at all compelled to raise wages.
From a simple supply and demand standpoint, we still have fewer jobs than workers looking for hire. This, in tandem with the federally-mandated minimum wage offered to labor by a large number of huge corporations, effectively cripples any competition in the unskilled labor market. I think that almost all of these businesses would immediately offer lower wages the day that federal law permitted, continuing the lack of competition.
Costco and other notable U.S. examples aside, there are tens of millions (vague number, sorry) of positions where people are making either exactly the minimum wage or one to two dollars more. Some smaller business contribute with minimum/low wage positions, but I'm claiming that the huge corporations are steering the market. You also have the highest turnover of positions at the minimum wage level from workers who are unfit for labor (or aren't "meeting expectations", for whatever reason) and thus cannot hold a job. So there is a relatively large pool of workers looking for any job they can find, and I definitely think that this translates into pushing the wages offered for the vast majority of unskilled labor positions right into the minimum wage floor.
This entire process is somewhat economically ironic, because from a bookkeeping viewpoint, corporations have spent a lot of money to support the liquidity of their workforce. But many applicants that pass screening aren't fit for labor, which couples back into the original turnover issue.
Now for the welfare part...
I'm taking a pessimistic view of humanity as a whole, once again, and this may be perceived as a cop out. There are a lot of people unfit for the grand pinnacle of Western civilization; the 40 (or more) hour work week. All have their various reasons, be it physical health, mental health, lack of education, lack of motivation, etc., and I'm not going to speculate on any numbers. No one likes to talk about this, ever.
I know I'm probably preaching to the choir, but I'll hammer this out anyway. The current minimum wage isn't quite a "living" wage, if you ask me. $7.50/hr. at 40 hours/week works out to be $15,600 annually, and unpaid leave takes the annual earnings down even further. In 2015 $'s, I would say that a living wage is somewhere around $25k/year, which translates back to around $12.25/hr., and those definitely aren't the same dollars in my town vs. Silicon Valley. Yet another obstacle for a federally mandated minimum wage standard; scaling for local cost of living, if we decide to go down that route.
Oh, did I mention healthcare? No, because I pretended that we were all fairly efficient machines in the eyes capital. So that's another can of worms.
The inequality of income that we are perpetuating with political policy could help solve all of these problems, but that's not uncomplicated either.
OK, time to go to bed, because I'm actually human sometimes.