Tuesday, October 5, 1999

Akio Morita gave
much to Hawaii

AKIO Morita, who died Sunday in Tokyo at 78, played a major role in Japan's post-World War II industrial resurgence through the Sony Corp. In his later years, he was also a generous supporter of institutions in Hawaii, where he was a part-time resident.

As the co-founder and chairman of Sony, Morita became Japan's most visible figure in international business.

Under his leadership, the company pioneered in the development of tape recorders and transistor radios. Sony made the first transistor television in 1960 and the first home videotape recorder in 1965. Its Walkman personal stereo cassette recorders were introduced in the 1980s.

In 1970 Sony became the first Japanese company listed on the New York Stock Exchange and in 1972 became one of the first Japanese corporations to build a factory in the United States.

Morita, who suffered a stroke in 1993, had spent about six months a year in Hawaii since 1996, undergoing treatment at the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific.

In July 1998, Morita and wife donated $2 million to Kuakini Medical Center. It was the largest cash donation ever made to the facility. Mrs. Morita said part of the reason for the donation was to thank the staff at Kuakini for the care her husband received while he was a patient there.

The Akio and Yoshiko Morita Foundation also has given $2 million to the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific, and $3 million to Punahou School.

Through Morita's efforts, Sony took over as sponsor of the former Hawaiian Open golf tournament when United Airlines decided to end its sponsorship. The tournament, now known as the Sony Open, is held at Waialae Country Club, where Morita was a member. He owned a home on the edge of the country club.

Akio Morita was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Hawaii in 1993. In his few years of residence here, he did much to make Hawaii a better place.


Tax credits for
school donations

Bullet The issue: The Supreme Court again has refused to consider a challenge to state aid to private and religious schools.

Bullet Our view: States will be encouraged to consider adopting similar programs subsidizing parents who send their children to private and religious schools.

ARIZONA'S program granting tax credits for donations for scholarships at private and religious schools has passed the U.S. Supreme Court's scrutiny. The high court's decision by a 3-2 vote not to consider a challenge to the program sends a clear signal to other states that such programs are acceptable.

The decision not to hear the appeal of the Arizona Supreme Court's upholding of the program sets no legal precedent. However, the National School Board Association's characterization of the Arizona program as "a wink and a nod" to governmental support of religious schooling certainly may now be extended to the nation's highest court.

The Supreme Court indicated its leanings last November by leaving intact Wisconsin vouchers for up to $5,000 a year per child for students of poor families to attend private schools in Milwaukee. Most of those schools are religious, but the court would not consider challenges based on the principle of separation of church and state.

An Arizona law allows taxpayers to take write-offs of up to $500 for donations to private schools. The program could provide Arizona private schools with $75 million a year.

Arizona Attorney General Janet Napolitano emphasized that the tax credits are given not to parents, students or schools "but to taxpayers making voluntary contributions for scholarships and tuition grants." However, the effect is to benefit the students and the schools.

The Supreme Court's refusal to review such cases and issue a definitive ruling on the issues is disappointing. The likelihood that more private school-aid programs will be introduced in other states makes it particularly important that the court deals fully with the issue.


Health insurance

Bullet The issue: The number of people with no health insurance is increasing.

Bullet Our view: More efforts must be made to deal with the problem.

HAWAII, with one of the weakest economies in the United States, has the smallest proportion of people without health insurance of any state -- 8.8 percent -- according to the Census Bureau. It's possible that not all of the uninsured are included in that report. In any case, even 8.8 percent is too many.

Nationally, the number of uninsured rose last year by 833,000, to a total of 44.3 million. This is particularly discouraging because the national economy has been strong. One explanation for the increase: Many people leaving welfare have lost Medicaid coverage without getting insurance to replace it.

But if the number of uninsured rises in times of prosperity, how many would be uninsured in a recession?

A special federal health insurance program for children was enacted in 1997, but the number of uninsured children increased last year by 330,000.

The nation has to solve this problem. President Clinton's proposal of a comprehensive health insurance program flopped, but there is room for less ambitious measures.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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