Stark is more Blue than you thought

Conservative opposition over a possible chairmanship on the Ways and Means Committee for Rep. Pete Stark is underway. A video with capability to smear Stark is making the rounds on YouTube today showing him verbally tussling with a reporter in which the interview abruptly ends with the East Bay congressman storming out saying, “Listen, you get the f–k out of here or I’ll throw you out the window.”

The video was posted last year by filmmaker Jan Helfeld, but Stark’s lack of gray hair and thin facial features suggest the clip is from earlier this decade. The interviewer also mentions the national debt as being $5 trillion. It is currently around $11 trillion.

Nonetheless, the subject of mounting debt still reverberates today with many conservatives angry over President Obama’s stimulus bill and health care reform plans. The outrage, whether real or a figment of righty punditry, has been the impetus for the rise of various anti-tax tea party groups and the raucous atmosphere at normally sedate town hall meetings across the country. A video like this is red meat for those groups who undoubtedly oppose the vigorously progressive liberal from California.

Helfend, whose web site claims he institutes the Socratic method of interviewing his subject, appears to be pinning Stark to the idea more debt equals a rise in wealth. He returns to the simplistic question repeatedly to the consternation of Stark who begins to the belittle Helfend. The cursing may be the headline, but this part of the video is actually more entertaining.

“Did you ever study economics?” Stark asked.

“A little bit,” Helfend answers as if he knows where this line of questioning is leading.


“The University of Puerto Rico.”

“The University of Puerto Rico,” Stark repeats, “Do you have a doctorate in economics?”


“A master’s degree?”

“Uh huh, how many classes did you take? What I would suggest is–these are simple-minded questions that don’t relate to the realities…”

Helfend interrupts, “For viewers who don’t have a doctorate in economics, why don’t you [inaudible.]”

“Why don’t you explain to your viewers,” Stark said, “because you’re blabbing about something you don’t know anything about.”

“I’m just trying to ask you some questions.”

“Nah, nah. You’re asking a lot of stooopid questions, Jan.”

Later, Stark returns the conversation to Helfend’s understanding of economics saying, “It’s why you never graduated from a very good college, Jan, and I’m not going to take the time to educate you here.”

It is not surprise that this video surfaces in the mainstream at a time when the current chair of the Ways and Means Committee, the more congenial Charlie Rangel, is caught up in ethics charges, but it also conveys a Republican Party wedded to the idea that simplistic explanations will rally their constituents.

Stark is correct when he says the interviewer is confusing the realities of household economics with macroeconomics. The truth is, you don’t have to dig up a decade-old video of Stark behaving badly to make your ideological point, just print what he says about the national debt. He won’t deny his liberal pedigree.