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Manchin holds roundtable at WVSU

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sen. Joe Manchin said he supports raising the minimum wage, but hesitated to endorse any specific legislation until he has a chance to evaluate it.

"If you took the minimum wage in 1968, I think it was in the $1.60, $1.70 range in 1968," Manchin said Thursday, "and it was automatically adjusted for inflation, today's minimum wage would be over $10."

Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that the Senate will vote on legislation to raise the minimum wage before 2014, although minimum wage legislation is unlikely to advance in the Republican-controlled House.

Manchin spoke on a variety of topics -- the financial crisis, immigration, health care, education -- to students and professors at a town hall style-event at West Virginia State University on Thursday.

Manchin said that his concern with the Affordable Care Act is that people will not use the preventive care that has been made available to them and will instead wait until medical issues worsen and become more expensive.

"If a person doesn't use that health-care card and go to their screenings, their annual checkups," Manchin said, "if they're not going to utilize that, the system will fall on its own weight."

He said he'd like to see some sort of market-incentive system to make get people to be healthier.

"You'd better make sure there's personal responsibility and accountability to make people well or keep them well," he said. "If they fall into a sick category, the system will collapse and we ain't got nothing, that's what scares me."

Manchin told a crowd of students anxious about a dismal job market upon graduation that they needed to look at themselves as a product and offer good value and good service.

"You're the product -- how good are you?" Manchin asked.

"You've got a person who's got a good product, and they're reasonable about their value and what they want, but they're not a self-starter. You got to kick them in the butt every day and tell them what to do. That ain't going to make it."

Manchin spoke about the need to continue to reduce the deficit, which has fallen by more than 50 percent since 2009. He said that his most sobering moment as a senator came during a hearing of the Committee on Armed Services. Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked about the greatest threat the country faces.

"Without even blinking an eye, he said 'the financial situation this country faces,'" Manchin recalled. "Unmanaged debt will make a coward out of you."

A crew from Fox News had been following Manchin during his schedule Thursday. Jonathan Kott, a Manchin spokesman, said a crew from MSNBC was planning on following Manchin Friday.

"They've got it in their heads he's running for president. I keep telling them he's not," Kott said.

When asked if he was planning on running for president, Manchin answered with an unequivocal, "No."

Reach David Gutman at david.gutman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119. 


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