Two different issues.
Regarding lowering the minimum wage, the idea isn't to provide you with a wage you can live on and afford "things". The idea is to create an entry point into the workforce. From there you move on to jobs that pay living wages. You aren't meant to stay earning minimum wage for extended periods of time.
Okay. But many people find themselves unable to get jobs that earn much more than minimum wage. Wal-Mart, for example, doesn't pay any of its lower-level employees (including lower-level managers) more than a few dollars above minimum wage. You may wish it were different, that people didn't take multiple minimum wage jobs in order to support their families, but that is the reality.
My work ethic comment is aimed at the abuse of unemployment and welfare plans. Too many people remain on these services - again meant to be short term and temporary - for too long. If an individual cannot find a job that "suits" them, they can remain on unemployment far too easily instead of finding a honest job that pays the bills. Welfare is similar - there is zero motivation for an individual who has no work ethic to reenter the workforce. This is where a significant part of the US lacks work ethic.
There is no evidence whatsoever for these claims. People generally are on welfare or unemployment assistance for a very limited time. This downturn is special, of course, because millions of people have been unable to find jobs where it would have been easy at other times: to not extend them an extra helping hand is not only cruel, but hurts our future economy, as workers who are unemployed for long stretches become unemployable.
As for welfare, the main problem with welfare is that it is means-tested. This creates the problem that if a person earns just a little bit more money, they get kicked off of welfare, so that there is a range of income where people have an active incentive to not get raises or work more hours. That is really, really bad. There's also the cruelty bit where means-tested programs are guaranteed to push some people out of welfare that really need the assistance.
Personally, I would much rather have a program where every adult citizen of the United States gets a stipend that is enough to survive on. It shouldn't be enough to live well, of course, but it should be enough that people can still live (i.e. enough for food and shelter). Then, if people want more, they need to work for it.
The worker that works directly with the general public is most likely a minimum wage earner. Grocers, fast food workers, and convenience store clerks are small sample of the types of jobs that pay minimum wage. You raise the minimum wage then you raise the price of goods sold at these retail outlets. This raises the CPI.
Only a tiny fraction of the money paid for those goods and services goes to the minimum wage employees. It really doesn't matter that those are the people the customer sees. Most of the money still goes to things like the managers' pay, building rent, wholesale purchase of the final goods, licensing payments, etc.
I like work; it fascinates me; I can sit and look at it for hours.