CRESTVIEW — A “looming budgetary catastrophe” was the message U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz sent to a senior economics class at Crestview High School on Tuesday.
Gaetz's visit to CHS was part of a series of district stops during a two-week Congressional recess. The day began with the congressman speaking to senior honor graduates in the school’s auditorium. He congratulated students on their success and asked questions about their educational paths.
“You represent this community that is incredibly proud,” Gaetz told the graduates.
He encouraged students to manage time well when in college and focus on schoolwork and studying before going off to have fun — adding college can be one of the most enjoyable times in life.
“If you don’t get the work done — whether you're on a scholarship, or grants, or have Mom and Dad helping you out — if you don’t make it count and get it done, the money will dry up,” Gaetz said.
Asked about his own college curriculum and experience, Gaetz said planning and meeting with advisers played a key role. A political science major, he added if he could redo college he’d focus on finance or economics because of the vital role those studies play in his current position on the House Budget Committee.
Gaetz asked students if they paid attention to current foreign and domestic affairs but the students didn’t pose any questions for the congressman on the matters; instead, they focused on college discussions.
The representative taught an economics lesson during the second part of his visit, discussing issues his budget committee faces daily and what impact their decisions can have. Gaetz expressed personal political opinions that, at times, made the class feel more like a campaign stop.
“We are screwed as young people because of past congressional choices,” Gaetz, 34, said early in his lesson plan to the class.
He continued to discuss national spending, debt and budgeting — analyzing past trends and what they suggest for the future. Gaetz concluded with a grim prospect that “we are in deep trouble” if problems within the budget are not corrected.
Political beliefs focused on the consequences of increased spending, although Gaetz did offer a broad overview of various ideologies such as those concerning tax code reform.
Students could make suggestions and have an open discussion with the congressman. One student engaged Gaetz on foreign policy decisions concerning Syria and China, to which the representative stressed the influence budgetary decisions have on international affairs.
“How can we get tough on our own banker, when China owns so much of our public debt,” Gaetz said.
When asked why the decision was made to bomb Syria, Gaetz said the “real threat we face is inactivity.” Adding that President Donald Trump’s decision to bomb the country indicated a change in policy from past presidents to use bombs or missiles instead of U.S. troops.
“This was the first time I’ve ever done something like this,” Harry Walker, the economics teacher who offered his classroom to Gaetz, said. “It was a great opportunity for these students and might be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to speak so casually with a member of Congress. They had the chance to throw ideas out there and be heard.”
Gaetz took time during his visit to talk with several staff members. He sat with a table of students during their lunch time to join their conversation and take a selfie while eating his slice of cafeteria pizza.
The congressman will make district stops until the House of Representative reconvenes April 25.