Paul L. Caron

Monday, October 11, 2010

NPR: Nobel Prize Winner Whines About Tax Burden

Nobel Prize NPR, Life After Winning a Nobel Prize:

[ROBERT] SIEGEL [host]: [T]he money -- what did you do with the money, the prize?

Prof. [MARTIN] CHALFIE [2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry]:   Well, the money [$1.4 million] is a funny thing. I think people hear about this massive amount of money that people get. It's a very nice sum, and I'm very grateful for it. But there's a number of things that happened to the money. And for my -- in my particular case, the exchange rate tanked between the announcement and the distribution. And, of course, it was a prize that was shared with three people. ...

rof. CHALFIE: But the lion's share of the prize money, since the Reagan presidency, when the tax codes were changed, has gone to the government. Because before Reagan, the rule was if you won an international prize, you kept the money. It was tax-free. Now, it's taxed. So 50% of it went immediately to the city, the state and the federal government. The rest of it is going to help put my daughter through college.

SIEGEL: Yes, there's an interesting premise there that if you win a Nobel Prize, you can pay your daughter's tuition in college today in America.

Prof. CHALFIE: Well, I hope to do that. Yes.

(Hat Tip: Stuart Lazar.)

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Sour grapes

Posted by: Aron | Oct 18, 2010 10:19:59 PM

@Pixy Misa regarding Nobels in the sciences never erring:

How about that Nobel prize in 1949 for the lobotomy? Useful, in a grim way, for society but not so much the individual, for fifteen years or less.

Posted by: Matt | Oct 18, 2010 3:46:53 PM

Why does every single article, blog post, or comment I read anywhere on the internet these days assume that the only colleges available for people to attend are expensive private schools? My alma mater, a quality public 4-year university, estimates their 2010-2011 in-state tuition to be $5,020. Assuming Dr. McGenius lives in my state, his daughter could take about 50 years to complete her degree. If he's too much of an intellectual snob for his kid to go somewhere other than Harvard or MIT, that's his own problem. (Disclaimer: I know there are other costs in addition to tuition, but they amount to nowhere near the $40k-$50k that are commonly quoted for 1 year of college around the blogosphere)

Posted by: Bullard Schmidt | Oct 12, 2010 9:45:56 PM

Just a quick comment to reassure Prof Caron that some people understood the "whining" reference; no need to bang your head against the wall in frustration.

Oh, and regarding "The world's smallest violin is playing." Yes, and it's composed of 238 amino acids. I take it you're not interested in any of its tunes?

Posted by: Bob | Oct 12, 2010 6:57:04 PM

>>> Now, it's taxed. So 50% of it went immediately to the city, the state and the federal government.

He says that like its a bad thing. Everyone knows it's for the common good the children saving the world from Global Warming.

Posted by: John | Oct 12, 2010 6:41:19 PM

What it really says is how ridiculously expensive college is these days.

Posted by: Fat Man | Oct 12, 2010 1:02:57 PM

If Prof Chalfie is teaching at a university, he can probably send his kids there tuition free.

Posted by: Brad | Oct 12, 2010 1:02:26 PM

Ben, this is the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. (Presented by the King of Sweden, by the way; only the Peace Prize is presented in Norway.)

Now, the Literature Prize is often controversial, the Peace Prize is often a bad joke, and the (much later) Economics Prize is mixed, but I doubt you can find a single winner in Physics, Chemistry, or Physiology & Medicine (the three science categories) who is undeserving. Many deserving people may have been overlooked, but no-one undeserving has won a Nobel Prize in science.

Posted by: Pixy Misa | Oct 12, 2010 11:04:48 AM

Oh, dear.

How rotten it is that winners of "international prizes" are held to exactly the same tax laws that everyone else is.


Posted by: cas127 | Oct 12, 2010 10:03:34 AM

Since that sounds an awful lot like a change in the law, perhaps you should be looking at who was in Congress during the Reagan administration.

Posted by: Mark A. Flacy | Oct 12, 2010 8:54:50 AM

I guess this works if you are not dissident Liu Xiaobo of China.

Posted by: duane | Oct 12, 2010 8:38:00 AM

Is that her tuition before, or after, any preferential treatment scholarships? You know, for being female and all that.

If this guy had (has?) a son, would that $233K cover his tuition?

Posted by: gus3 | Oct 12, 2010 8:37:37 AM

Yeah Woody I agree. Why should people who demonstrably make the human race smarter through achievements in science get to keep the rewards they've earned?

Posted by: Steve Two | Oct 12, 2010 7:32:51 AM

Maybe the Prize Tax was a means of getting back at the eggheaded elite. If so, bravo Reagan.

Just think of all of the undeserving people who won an award given out by a political party in Norway. This is the same Norway that couldn't decide between siding England and Germany in 1939 and as a result was invaded by both. This is the same Norway that gave us the word Quisling.

I guess Reagan's idea was that if these elites are going to preach that everyone should pay more taxes, then Reagan would accomadate them

Posted by: Ben | Oct 12, 2010 7:13:07 AM

Ditto on that. I expect he's had to deal with everyone thinking he'd had riches showered upon him, and wanted to set things straight. Sounds as if what he actually got, after taxes, was less than one-sixth of the figure generally associated with the prize among the general public -- a big enough discrepancy that I'd want to clear things up myself if put in that position.

Posted by: David | Oct 12, 2010 7:06:14 AM

The guy will end up with $250k after taxes. That's not shabby (at all) but its also not a fortune. It's tuition for his kid and a couple nice trips for the family. Maybe a new car, too.

Posted by: DG | Oct 12, 2010 6:36:28 AM

plus, as a nobel laureate, there is a guaranteed professor position at any university forever

Posted by: xxx | Oct 12, 2010 6:32:27 AM

$1,400,000/3*(1-.05)=$233,333, just about the right amount to send a kid to a private school for four years. Ouch!

Posted by: Dave | Oct 12, 2010 6:30:09 AM

Well, do the math. $1.4 million/three winners = $467,000. 50% for taxes leaves $233,000. Dr. Chalfie should hope his daughter doesn't want to go to graduate school, too.

Posted by: jt | Oct 12, 2010 6:25:18 AM

Yeah, I actually heard the interview and Chalfie wasn't whining about it, just stating a fact. He wasn't terribly happy about it, but sounded like he was shrugging his shoulders and thinking "that's just the way things are."

Posted by: Jim Nutt | Oct 12, 2010 6:20:58 AM

Not a "whine" under any standard definition of that word: no high pitched cry; he was not complaining at all; and, he had an almost humorous tone of voice.

Posted by: Nobody Special | Oct 12, 2010 6:07:34 AM

Yeah, I wouldn't call this whining at all.

Posted by: bearing | Oct 12, 2010 6:06:06 AM

Doesn't exactly sound like whining, but more like a statement of fact.

Posted by: Steve | Oct 12, 2010 4:38:40 AM

The world's smallest violin is playing.

Posted by: Woody | Oct 11, 2010 8:48:36 PM