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Majority of Americans Agree: Fix the Income Gap, Raise the Minimum Wage

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

A family with bags from a service that provides for people in need in Oswego, NY. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)The majority of U.S. residents agree: the current economic system works in favor of the rich over those who are not born into wealth and one way of shrinking the growing gap of income inequality would be to raise the national minimum wage substantially, a new poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News finds.

According to the poll, 57% of Americans think the federal government should "pursue policies that try to reduce the gap between wealthy and less well-off Americans."

Sixty-four percent, or nearly two-thirds of Americans, said current federal government policies do more to favor wealthy Americans over the poor.

And 66% percent support raising the federal minimum wage, compared to 31% who oppose it.

The annual salary of a full-time American worker employed at the current minimum wage, $7.25 per hour, is $15,080—less than the official federal government poverty level for a family of two.

According to a recent report, 52% of workers at fast food chains including those who work full-time, are forced to rely on safety net programs such as Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to meet their basic needs.

As the Washington Post reports, between 2009 and 2012, the incomes of the top one percent of earners grew by more than 31 percent, according to Emmanuel Saez, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley, while the incomes of the bottom 99 percent expanded by just 0.4 percent.

And according to a recent survey of "private, corporate and academic economists" taken by the Associated Press, in addition to hurting individuals and families struggling to make ends meet, the growing income gap is harming the economy as a whole, as the economy would be better able to flourish if the money and resources were more evenly dispersed.

"Whether calculated by comparing the growth in wages of the highest-income Americans with the lowest, or the proportion of wealth controlled by the richest Americans, or the ratio of wages for production workers to those of chief executives, inequality has grown," the Washington Post reports. "Americans have consistently called for government to aim policies at shrinking the gap."

And that call has grown even louder over the past year as protests over wages and working conditions in the U.S. have proliferated across the country, with varying degrees of success. Workers from large corporate retail and fast food chains, such as Walmart, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s, in particular, have stepped up their fight for better wages and working conditions including this past Black Friday when Walmart workers rallied in a total of 1,500 protests across the country.

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