CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., began a weeklong tour of West Virginia on Tuesday to discuss the federal debt and what it means to the next generation of Americans.
Manchin also continued to promote a national group called No Labels, which recently named Manchin and Jon Huntsman, a former Republican governor of Utah, its honorary chairmen.
On Tuesday afternoon, Manchin hosted a roundtable at the W. Kent Carper Justice and Public Safety Complex in Charleston, asking local business, labor, government and community leaders what issues they believe are important to "rebuilding a better America."
Manchin said, "In West Virginia, we have the lowest rate of participation in the work force" of any state.
"The Baby Boomer generation is reaching retirement age. This demographic trend is taking productive folks out of society," said Mark Muchow, deputy secretary of the state Department of Tax and Revenue.
"Per capita personal income in West Virginia is likely to go down" as coal employment drops, Muchow added.
Ted Boettner, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, said part of the reason workforce participation is low is there aren't enough jobs for people who want them.
"There are 14,000 fewer jobs now than in December 2007," Boettner said. "Today, there is only one job for every three people who need a job."
Josh Sword, the new secretary-treasurer of the West Virginia AFL-CIO, said rising medical costs must be controlled.
"Medical costs rise between 6 percent and 10 percent a year," Sword said. "We have allowed that industry to outpace everybody else."
Gaylene Miller, AARP's state director, said she was "delighted Manchin called together such an interesting group of people."
Miller believes Social Security and Medicare benefits are critical to the well-being of the state's senior citizens and provided a "fact sheet" that said: