Alistair, well and colourfully put. Here in NZ we also have a "minimum wage" but we don't have a "poverty line" Then no one can be under it! Hank, I don't know how much contact you have had with, or experienced, low income, but believe me there are two threads here. First those who espouse the so called new right monetarist theories have done an excellent job in most Western democracies of convincing everyone, including the undeserving poor themselves, that they are idle and worthless, and the only way of making them get a job is to make conditions on the dole etc untenable. Exactly as noted by William Booth in the 1860's. I would hope that we had progressed somewhat as a society in the last 100 years, but it seems not.
Secondly, and perhaps more fundamentally there is a wide misconception that low cost equates to "efficiency", and that only services which are counted towards GNP actually contribute to society. Now neither of these ideas stand up to the most superficial of analysis, but they are the accepted gospel and must be worshiped.
I agree that 'wants' are not 'needs', but the most fundamental need of humans beyond food and shelter is self respect and dignity, and the basic 'want' of everyone is for your children to have the opportunities you did not. If you can't fulfil these because you can't get a job, or have one where the wages are so low that you have to choose between being undernourished yourself or letting your children go hungry, it is a condemnation of society not the individual.