N. Korea Nuke Test & the State of the Union Address

Good evening everybody and welcome to In the News.  Glad you could be with us again today.  There are a couple of things we want to get to today.  The President gave his annual State of the Union Address last night and we want to go over the speech.  We want to talk about the policies he outlined and the vision he has for where the country should head over the next four years. 

But before we talk about that we want to talk about something that happened the other night that was pretty significant.  News crossed the wires late Monday night that North Korea had conducted a nuclear test.

The test was conducted in the northern part of North Korea, about 40 miles from the Chinese border.  It was originally picked up by the US Geological Survey.  They said it had detected a magnitude 4.9 earthquake in North Korea on Tuesday.  The location was similar to the location of tests conducted by North Korea back in both 2006 and 2009.  And on Tuesday, the North Korean government did indeed confirm that it successfully tested a miniaturized nuclear device.

The North Korean government said the test was in response to hostility by the United States.  North Korean State media reported that the government would come up with second and third reactions if the US continued with its hostilities.  North Korea has said in the past that its goal is to build a bomb that can reach the US mainland.

While they’re still far away from that, this test is significant because, a) The bomb detonated was more powerful than in any other previous test, and b) Previous bombs tested were plutonium based bombs.  This one is believed to be uranium based.  And the uranium based bomb making process is much harder to keep track of and monitor.  So this is seen as a significant step forward for North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

President Obama called it a highly provocative act and urged action in the UN Security Council.  Even China, North Korea’s main ally seemed put off by the test.  They had discouraged North Korea from undergoing such a test in January and it seems that North Korea has openly defied their number one ally and supporter.  China supplies North Korea with much needed resources for its population like food and oil.

So all eyes are now on the UN Security Council where we’ll see what actions are taken.  The key will be how far China goes in reprimanding its ally.  What kind of action it will sign on to without issuing a veto.  To a large degree that will dictate just what will get done in the Security Council.  So we’ll be keeping an eye on those developments and we’ll keep you updated on what happens there.

We switch now to the State of the Union.  The President of course addresses Congress on a yearly basis in what is known as the State of the Union address.  It was meant as a way to keep Congress informed of what is happening in the executive branch.  It has become in modern times a speech that puts forth the President’s agenda, what he hopes to accomplish in the coming year.

This State of the Union of course comes with some added attention because it is the first in President’s Obama second term, the first since he was re-elected.  So many are looking to it to see what agenda gets laid out for the President’s second term and what type of tone he sets for the next 4 years.

Republicans had some expectations as well.  They were calling on the President to address spending and entitlement programs, the drivers of the nation’s debt in their estimation.  They wanted him to address the sequester, which is coming up in a few weeks.  And they wanted him to talk to about the economy and jobs.    

The speech lasted about an hour.  And it was a pretty strong speech.  Now what you think of the agenda that he outlined depends on your political view of course.  But it was definitely a speech in which he outlined a vision for the country that was very much in line with the President’s beliefs. 

Some even called it aggressive.  He touched on jobs which I was happy about.  I thought jobs were a blaring omission from the President’s inaugural address, because he never mentioned it.  Unemployment is still way too high at 7.7%.  And so for it to not even be mentioned in his inaugural address, I thought was a little strange.  But perhaps the President knew all along that he was going to delve into it in the State of the Union address and so was waiting for that.

He set the tone of the speech early on, speaking about the need to reinvigorate the middle class.  How that is the key to America’s prosperity and future growth.  Let’s take a listen to that part of the speech from the President.

He spoke about bringing manufacturing back to the US which I was very happy to hear.  He said he would fund a manufacturing hub similar to one that is successful and already working in Youngstown, OH.  I’ve always believed that a strong manufacturing base is the key to economic health in this country.  We have to get back to making things, not just buying and consuming.  So I was glad to hear that.

And he also called for raising the Federal minimum wage to $9 an hour as a way to address poverty and strengthen the working class.  Which was kind of a surprise, I don’t think anyone saw that coming.  The minimum wage is a policy point that Democrats have pushed for a long time.  Obviously Republicans are opposed to it. 

We actually did a show about it last year, in which we spoke about the economic impact of raising the minimum wage.  If you haven’t heard that go back and check it out.  Research is mixed but there are actually studies that show that raising the minimum wage has a positive impact on jobs and the economy.

He spoke about education.  He called for high-quality pre-k for every kid in the country.  He cited several studies that noted that high quality pre-k is actually one of the best determinants of future educational success for children.  I’ve always been a strong proponent of education and agree whole heartedly with that finding so I was glad to hear that as part as well.

He also spoke about holding colleges more accountable.  He wants to institute a national college scorecard, that will help tell parents and students which colleges give the best return on their tuition.  Which schools offer the best bang for the buck.  I imagine that would resonate fairly well with families with college age children.  He also touched on immigration reform.  Reiterating his call to Congress to move on the fixing the nation’s immigration system.  Saying the time is now for comprehensive immigration reform. 

He mentioned Afghanistan, and how he plans on bringing 34,000 troops home by the end of this year.  And how by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.  He spoke about being more transparent on the issue of drones and drone strikes.  Which I thought was a smart move politically because it got him out in front of an issue that had been gaining traction over the last several days, which is his controversial use of drone strikes.

And in what was probably the emotional highpoint of the speech, he spoke of gun control.  Evoking all of the victims of gun violence in recent years, he spoke of Hadiya Pendleton the teenager who performed for the President with her marching band during his inauguration last month and was gunned down recently after being caught in the crossfire between rival gang members on the streets of Chicago, he spoke of Gabby Giffords, he spoke of the victims of Newtown, Oak Creek and Aurora, saying that at the very least, they all deserved a vote on gun control.  He said to members of Congress, you can vote no if that’s your choice, but these Gun Control proposals at least deserve a vote.

So all in all it was I said earlier, it was an aggressive speech.  It was ambitious.  It seems that the President is not going to be reticent about going after his agenda.  It signaled that he is not going to be looking to compromise as much as he did before.  He is going to stand up and fight for what he believes in.

Apparently the President will hit the road to build consensus for his policies with stops in several states.  He was in NC today and he’ll be heading to Georgia and Illinois over the next couple of days.  So it will be very interesting to see how this all plays out.  It’s very doubtful that all of these things will get done, but it will be curious to see how the fight develops, and which side gets the better of the arguments.

Gun control seems like it’s going to be the most immediate of the issues. As well as immigration reform, and of course the sequester and other budget issues which are scheduled to come to a head by the end of next month.

We’ll see how it all plays out and of course, we’ll be right here to bring it to you and to explain just what it all means for you and your families.  Thanks for being with us everyone, that’s our show for tonight.  Remember to tune in next time and keep your comments coming in to comments@itnshow.com.  That’s comments@itnshow.com.  And remember to keep up with us on Facebook and Twitter @itnshow, that’s intshow, one word.  We’ll see you next time everyone, good night.