UNION CITY — Investigating former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney would be a waste of taxpayers' money, according to Rep. Pete Stark.

The question of whether to investigate the former president and vice president for issues such as the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was posed to Stark, a Democrat from Fremont, in his first Town Meeting since the inauguration of Barack Obama. He told the crowd at the Ruggieri Senior Center on Saturday morning that Congress is ill-equipped to investigate these things, and it only would waste taxpayer money.

"I have no real interest in the fault of what happened because there's so much ahead of us to do," he said.

The biggest issue remains the economy, which he said will take years to start growing again. Stark consistently has voted against the bailout packages for financial institutions. Not only has their urgency been overstated by both the present and previous administrations, but there is no way to account for the spent money, he said.

"The bill (for the second $350 billion) requires a listing of all the money spent, but it's probably not enforceable," he said.

He touted Obama's economic stimulus plan — which would provide money to rebuild cities' infrastructure — as the quickest way to get the economy moving again. When an audience member challenged that view — suggesting that tax credits for employers would create better jobs — Stark retorted that capitalists were not likely to create jobs merely for tax savings.

"If I was going to hire someone because (the government would pay) 20 percent of their salary, what am I going to get for that other 80 percent? If I had a reason to hire someone and make a profit, I'd do it regardless of whether I got that tax break," he said.

Several audience members also questioned Stark about what the new U.S. policy in the Middle East would look like in light of Israel's recent invasion of Gaza.

The United States has not been a neutral broker with its unilateral support for Israel, he said. He praised Obama's choice of former Maine Sen. George Mitchell to lead new negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, calling him the best person since former President Jimmy Carter to help bring peace to the region.

"Killing people doesn't push us closer to peace in any community," he said.

A humanitarian approach is the best way to stop the violence, not just in the Middle East but in other areas around the world — especially violence from young people who have no way to buy food, no job and no chance for education, Stark said.