"If I wanted to be a pilot, the last thing I would be is a pilot for a regional."
Unfortunately, if you want to be an airline pilot in the US, you have little choice in the matter these days. Unless you are coming from the military, and can go straight to one of the better companies hiring today, such as jetBlue, AirTran or ATA (Southwest will resume interviewing early next year), then your options are limited to either the regionals, Part 135 freight (which pays no better than the regionals, and in most cases, somewhat less) or corporate/fractional type flying, where there can be night and day differences between the good operators and those that are not so good. Landing a position with one of the top corporate flight departments is even tougher than getting one of the better airline jobs. Right now, in the corporate world, the fractional operators present the best opportunities for employment, but you might be surprised at the pay and benefits there, as well.
While it's true the starting salaries at most regionals leave much to be desired, there have been some strides made in recent years with regards to pay and work rules. Take Comair, for example. Their senior pilots are making in excess of $100k/yr with company funded retirement, etc. While it's not what the majors of yesterday paid, it certainly is better than the pay and benefits at McDonalds.
Also, unless you are coming from the military, to get hired at the majors (when they hire again many years from now), or the top level LCCs that are currently hiring, the competition is very keen, with most requiring a minimum of 1000 hrs of turbine PIC time and previous Part 121 experience. Virtually all of the non-military pilots currently being hired into these positions are Captains at the regionals.
So, if you want to be a pilot and the last thing you would do is be a pilot for the regionals, then your options would be very limited. Start networking for that decent corporate job while trying to get enough experience and qualifications to be competitive. Or join the military and get into their flight program.
Or pick a different career, since there really is no change on the horizon. There has never been a shortage of pilots willing to accept these positions at the starting salaries that are being offered. And until that changes, then nothing will change.