'Joe the Plumber' Is Not Alone

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New PayScale Compensation Analysis Shows That Most Americans Are Trying to Stay Afloat in the Same Economic Boat

Charlie the Certified Public Accountant

With less than two weeks to go before the presidential election and echoes of "Joe the Plumber" reverberating up and down the campaign trail, PayScale - which operates the world's largest database of individual employee compensation profiles - decided to crunch the salary numbers on behalf of millions of Joe the Plumber's middle-class counterparts.

The findings show that most Americans are trying to stay afloat in the same economic boat; and, like Joe the Plumber, "Regina the Registered Nurse," "Charlie the Certified Public Accountant," "Marion the Mechanical Engineer" and "Paulette the Pediatrician" all make less than $250,000 a year in total cash compensation (salary, bonus, commissions, overtime but not equity or stock payments).

"The middle class in America is much wider and deeper than most people suspect," explains Al Lee, Director of Quantitative Analysis for PayScale. "The interesting thing is that a wide range of challenging and respected professions offer middle-class compensation."

PayScale is a non-partisan company, and its special election numbers support some of the claims made by both presidential candidates. The data backs up John McCain's contention that "Joe the Plumber" is a solid proxy for middle-income wage earners in the United States; but the statistics also reinforce the thinking behind one of Barack Obama's core economic plans, which asserts that 95 percent of all Americans - everyone making below $250,000 a year - won't pay more in taxes.

"They're both right," says Lee. "There are a lot of Joe the Plumbers out there, and there are also a huge number of people making less than $250,000 a year in our country."

Paying homage to the electoral map, PayScale looked at several key battleground states and analyzed median middle-class compensation for employees with 15-plus years in their profession:


Ohio - $47, 500
Florida - $54,800
Colorado - $54,900

Registered Nurse

Ohio - $60,200
Florida - $62,800
Colorado - $68,900

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

Ohio - $69,700
Florida - $76,900
Colorado - $67,600

Mechanical Engineer

Ohio - $78,800
Florida - $82,000
Colorado - $89,400

The PayScale numbers offer some surprises. The median national annual compensation for corporate attorneys, pediatricians, vice presidents of operations and chief financial officers (at companies with approximately 500 employees) is well under $250,000:

Corporate Attorney




Vice President, Operations


Chief Financial Officer (CFO)


So who's in that rarified e slice of America that will end up paying more taxes, under Obama's tax plan and has benefited from the Republicans' tax cuts over the past few years?

Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
*at approximately 500 employee company




Surgeon (all types)


About PayScale

PayScale.com is the world's largest ongoing salary survey, with over 15 million unique user profiles. With the world's largest database of individual employee compensation profiles, PayScale provides an immediate and precise snapshot of current market salaries. PayScale's patent-pending real-time profiling technology collects and indexes employee pay attributes worldwide and makes this data available through its online salary tools and salary reports. PayScale was founded in 2002 and is headquartered in Seattle.


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Steven Gottlieb
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