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Jac Wilder VerSteeg: Dennis Hastert teaches a lot about economics, government and public policy

One result of former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s indictment is that Wheaton College has removed Hastert’s name from its J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government, and Public Policy.

In a news release the college, in Wheaton, Illinois, said:

“In light of the charges and allegations that have emerged, the College has re-designated the Center as the Wheaton College Center for Economics, Government, and Public Policy at this time.”

While I understand the college’s embarrassment, I think it would have been better to keep Hastert’s name. Why? Because his case so effectively illustrates the basics of economics, government and public policy.

Hastert started out as a high school wrestling coach. He ended up a millionaire. How did he do that? By exploiting his political history and connections. After leaving Congress, for example, he made millions as a lobbyist.

And Hastert also, it has been alleged, made big bucks by manipulating public policy.

While still serving in Congress, Hastert joined with a group of land speculators who made a huge profit when one of Hastert’s “earmarks” paid to put a new road near the former farmland the group had purchased.

After erasing Hastert’s name, Wheaton said,

“The Center will continue in its mission ‘to advance the training of Wheaton College students and the greater community in the understanding of market economies, representative democracies, limited government and the redeeming effects of the Christian worldview on the practice of business, government and politics.’”

Again, Hastert’s case and name would seem to be perfect for that mission. We see from his example what happens to “market economies” when the people who are supposed to uphold the ideals of “representative democracies” and “limited government” instead pull the levers of power to benefit themselves and their friends financially and politically.

And, of course, Hastert – and the politicians he replaced or preempted as speaker of the House – teach valuable lessons in the danger of religious hypocrisy.

Ex-Speaker Newt Gingrich admitted to affairs while married. So did Bob Livingston – who had called for Bill Clinton’s resignation because of the Lewinsky affair only to decline the speakership when his own infidelity was revealed. The GOP handed the gavel instead to Hastert.

Hastert, as everyone now knows, got into trouble when he tried to secretly pay hush money to a former student. He hasn’t been charged with sex abuse. Rather, he was charged with trying to thwart laws intended to flag money-laundering and with lying to federal law enforcement authorities.

All this from yet another politicians fronting for a Republican Party that claims to be the protector of Christian family values.

Wheaton, in attempting to sweep the Hastert scandal under the rug, is wimping out and squandering a valuable teachable moment.

Jac Wilder VerSteeg is editor of Context Florida. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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