8 Ways Economic Inequality In America Is Like the ‘Hunger Games’

The economic inequality highlighted in “The Hunger Games’” fictional world of Panem (where the Capitol owns everything and the districts have zilch) might seem like just a plot device in a dystopian tale, but it’s truer than you think. Here are eight facts about economic inequality and the minimum wage.

1. Rich Are Getting Richer

Nearly all—95%—of the income gains from 2009–2012 have been captured by the wealthiest 1%. How else can Caesar Flickerman afford all that blue hair dye and his collection of sparkly tuxes? And you thought the greedy Capitol was pure fiction. In recent years, the wealthiest 1% have gotten richer and richer, while the median household income is down 8% since 2000. Wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of national income since 1966, while corporate profits are now the largest share of national income since 1950. The federal minimum wage, $7.25, hasn’t risen since 2009.

2. Low Wages Cost Taxpayers Billions Per Year

Just like President Snow forces citizens in the 12 districts of Panem to pony up and donate their children to the “Hunger Games” arena, large corporations expect you and me to pick up the tab for the low wages they pay. Minimum wage workers are more likely to need food, heating and medical assistance, and in no state can a minimum wage worker on a full-time 40-hour workweek schedule afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment.

3. Tipped Workers Only Make $2.13 an Hour

Restaurants, like other corporations, expect you to subsidize abysmal wages for their servers (and they’re lovin’ it). The federal minimum wage for tipped workers, $2.13 an hour, hasn’t risen in 20 years. It’s kind of like living on oil and grain rations, but it’s unlikely tipped workers can go hunting in the forbidden woods for squirrels to make up the difference.

4. Half of Fast-Food Workers Rely on Public Assistance

It just makes you want to shoot an apple out of a roasted pig’s mouth. According to a recent study, 52% of families of fast-food workers receive tax-payer funded assistance from a public program like Medicaid, food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The people of Panem are hungry, but the same problem exists in the U.S. It’s crazy to think in America, hunger affects 1 in 6 people and 1 in 5 children.

5. Large Low-Wage Employers, like Walmart and McDonald’s, Can Afford to Pay More

Salute if you agree. Walmart and McDonald’s aren’t struggling, in fact, they’re raking in billions. The majority (66%) of low-wage workers are not employed by small businesses but rather by large corporations with more than 100 employees.

6. If the Minimum Wage Kept Up with Inflation, It Would Be $10.74. Instead, It’s $7.25

It’s true. If the minimum wage also kept up with worker productivity, it would be even higher: $18.74.

7. Raise the Minimum Wage, and People Buy Things

OK, maybe not mahogany tables, but things people really need like groceries, gas, clothes, etc. And maybe the occasional pastry at the Mellark family bakery or a mockingjay accessory.

But seriously, raising the minimum wage would add billions to the economy.

8. Four in Five People Support Raising the Federal Minimum Wage to $10.10 an Hour

If Haymitch was around today, we think he’d approve of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 (and the majority of people do, too). Introduced earlier this year, the bill would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 by 2015, adjust that each year to keep pace with the rising cost of living starting in 2016 and raise the shameful minimum wage for tipped workers to 70% of the regular minimum wage.

If all these facts about the minimum wage motivate you to put down your dog-eared copy of Catching Fire, channel your inner Katniss and stand for something, here’s what you can do (we know you’re excited).

You’re not an Avox, speak up, fight back.

No bow and arrow necessary, just a computer. Click to call your senators and tell them you support the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013. Or, call 888-492-8867. We’re counting on you.

Are you in?

Good, because we can’t let Cinna down.

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