John Raese, Joe Manchin Clash on Earmarks, Healthcare in West Virginia

Associated Press + More

Johnson rejected the reference to socialism, calling health care reform "capitalism on steroids."

"You're having to pay a private corporation, and you're under penalty of law for not doing so," he said "This is not socialism by any stretch of the imagination."

Raese also reiterated his call to abolish the federal minimum wage, saying government should not set prices or wages. The free market, he argues, would determine the proper level for wages if the playing field were leveled and businesses were allowed to prosper.

Manchin said he believes in the minimum wage so workers can get "some dignity and some reward" from even menial jobs.

[See an Opinion slide show of 5 things Republicans can learn from the unemployment bill.]

In a free market, he said, the question would become "how low is low enough?"

The candidates also talked about coal and its importance to the economy and about the need for safer mines.

Manchin said his aides are working on state legislation for proper ventilation of underground mines that he would carry to the federal level. The bill will be completed once the investigation into the Upper Big Branch mine disaster determines the cause of a blast that killed 29 men in April, he said. When consensus is reached, the conclusions will be worked into the legislation.

But Raese said government needs to hear more voices when it comes to regulating industry, particularly corporate voices.

"I have never in my life ever been asked by any bureaucrat ever about my input into safety, my input into what we can do. I find that rather odd," he said. "I'd like to see more of the private sector involved, miners involved, people who are experienced in what we do — instead of a lot of Washington bureaucrats like we're seeing today."

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