January 25th, 2008
12:49 PM ET
10 years ago

Real People, Real Issues: Personal Responsibility

CNN's Mark Preston interviews   Lester Gilbert.

CNN's Mark Preston interviews Lester Gilbert.

ABOARD THE ELECTION EXPRESS, ABILENE, Texas (CNN) – Lester Gilbert is 75, and he is still working. His wife is 81, and she has a job. The Gilberts don’t need to be employed, but they choose to work.

We met him in the early morning hours Friday at a truck stop as he refueled before getting back on the road. Gilbert delivers recreational vehicles for a living, and he said he is not happy with the decisions being made in Washington that are impacting the economy such as the bipartisan agreement reached Thursday on a stimulus package.

“It is OK to help people, but they put themselves in debt,” Gilbert said. “I didn’t do it, and I am going to bail them out? I don’t agree with it.”

As for the subprime mortgage issue, Gilbert said people need to personally pay the price if they are not able to afford their homes.

“Let them go belly up like I did. I never went belly, belly up, but I had to crawl and I had to do without. People don’t do without. That is the problem.”

Gilbert lives in Petersburg, Illinois, but his perspective on the economy is shaped by not only what happens in his own backyard, but what he sees as he motors down the nation’s interstate highways. Gilbert said he thinks that talk of a recession is overblown.

“It’s not weak like they think it is,” he said. “I go all over this country. People are not doing without.”

A self-described conservative, Gilbert said the politicians in Washington and presidential candidates need to change their tune.

“I want them to go back to the basics,” he said. “Just the basics.”

- CNN Political Editor Mark Preston

soundoff (110 Responses)
  1. Democrat for life

    Who cares about this guys opinion?

    I know I don't

    January 25, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  2. Terry, Dallas Texas

    Ah yes,

    One of those folks who harken back to a simpler time when people paid cash for everything. Good idea about letting the home mortgage industry go belly up so that banks can lose billions in the process making it harder for everyone else to get credit.

    Thare are many people who are in trouble due to over extending themselves but there are so many more who are hard workers who pay the bills and find there is nothing left over to pump into the economy. Without that disposable income there is nothing to create jobs for goods bought with it.

    Hey, I'm sure that everyone pays cash for those RV's he delivers!

    January 25, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  3. Mark, MI

    I agree with this gentleman's statements. People have the tendancy to over spend and get themselves in to trouble by not living within there means.

    I take great care not to get into financial trouble by living on less than I make.

    January 25, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  4. debi

    i agree with you sir...we need to look in our own back yards for once...it is always good to help others, but take care of your own first, which hasn't been done in the bush era...all i see now is bickering and jockying for the top spot... what will they do when they get there? have a duh look on there faces? Basic is a good thing. we do need that more now than ever.

    January 25, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  5. alex

    this guys is absolutely right! people are complaining about not being able to pay for their cars and houses but they can still afford to buy two or three starbucks a day. people need to learn how to save again and live with the bare necessities if need be.

    January 25, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  6. Duncan, Richmond, VA

    Lester Gilbert 2008 ... I'd vote for him!!

    January 25, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  7. Richard

    Mr Gilbert is lucky he has a job.

    He is lucky that his job has not been replaced by some illegal alien or outsourced to China somehow. I think he doese not see the bigger picture here.

    January 25, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  8. Annette Marshall

    I agree completely with Mr. Gilberg's statements. People need to learn to go without.
    Before I was married I was a homeowner, debt free (execpt for monthly house payment) and I have never worked a job that paid over $25,000 a year. My husband and I (we are 29 and 30) are probably more financially secure than a lot of people are who are ready for retirement. Why? Quite simply – we didn't and don't waste our money on things we can do without. I'm not so sure this country doesn't need another Great Depression to see what a wasteful, spend thrifty nation we are.

    January 25, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  9. Karen

    Hate to say it, but I absolutely agree with him.

    Americans buy too much house, too many cars, fill their cupboards and closets with garbage, and can't park their cars in the garage because it's filled with even more crap. We invested the few dollars we could. I don't want to bail you out.

    Americans took out equity loans so they could go on multiple vacations, buy more cars, got greedy and bought second homes. We went without vacations and put the money in retirement. I don't want to bail you out.

    People bought homes with no legitimate income! I question if you are in the country legally. I don't want to bail you out.

    People buy big screen tvs and whine about the cost of medical care. People buy SUVs and can't afford the gas. We chose not to buy a big tv or big cars. We put money away for college. I don't want to bail you out.

    We chose to have less house (paid off), fewer cars (paid off), no debt. If we can't pay cash, we go without. We work, we save. We work more, we save more. We never touch our savings. The stupid check from the 'stimulous' package, is going in the bank too. I don't want to bail you out.

    Get it together, stop whining and keep your hands out of my pockets.

    We scrimped, we saved, we struggled. I dont' want to bail you out.

    In response to Americans begging others to spend at the World Economic Forum

    Cheng Siwei: The Chinese save today's spending for tomorrow, and the Americans spend tomorrow's savings today.

    Please note.... the room collapsed in to laughter and applause.

    The world thinks the debtor mentality of Americans is a joke and so do I.

    January 25, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  10. Robert K.

    I notice that small town America is shown in this piece. I drive through small town America, also known as "fly over country". I see signs, posters, bill boards and even people's houses painted with signs for Ron Paul. Why doesn't CNN cover this? It seems to me, as someone that doens't pay attention much to politics, that the news media is deliberately blocking out what these commoners are interested in. They seem to really like this Ron Paul guy. Why doesn't any of the news outlets have any information about him on their websites or TV coverage? It just seems odd that a news organization would ignore someone that seems so popular among the little people. I never see signs or interest in anyone else but I can't drive a mile without seeing a Ron Paul sign. I'm just curious. Thank you.

    January 25, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  11. wale azeez

    this is honest reality......Clinton and most other political figures keep blaming banks and wall street...did anybody force these peoples pens to paper? no....that's the story of life you fall...stand up dust off and keep going....let's be frank the people who got themselves into the subprime mess should get a large portion of the blame...JFK championed individual responsibility....wherever that mentality is?

    January 25, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  12. Jim

    Finally!!!! They interview someone with some principles and some common sense!!! How many 10 or 20 year old cars do you see on the road on your way to work? The vast majority of what I see every day is 3 years old or newer with every possible option being driven by someone talking on a cell phone or playing with their iPod. These things are all nice, but if you are really that bad off, you'd be driving a car that is paid for, calling people only when you had something worthwhile to talk about other than "hey, what are you doing" (from your home phone no less), and listening to the radio!

    January 25, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  13. Gee

    Typical republican attitude.

    January 25, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  14. David, Gilbert Arizona

    Lester must be a republican.

    I agree with a lot his views. When you buy a home you sign a contract. It is your responsibility to read the contract before you sign it. It is unfortunate that people with sub-prime mortgages are in danger of losing their homes but if they could not afford the house to begin with why in the world did they sign to mortgage contract?

    Our society has become one of entitlement. We are in the solid grasp of the "gimme" generation. Why should I do well in school and further my career when the government will just "gimme" money anyway? Can't afford my home? No worries. The government will "gimme" money to pay off the debt. I'm not willing to pay the extra cost for green electricity but you better "gimme" cheap power for my video games. Gimme health care. Gimme cheap gas. Gimme gimme gimme. I'm not going to work for it myself. Just gimme.

    This definitely is not the United States my parents were born into. No wonder the rest of the world points at us and laughs.

    January 25, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  15. jw, canadian,ok

    Had to talk to a conservative in Abiline, trust me there are no liberals there.

    January 25, 2008 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  16. G from SC & GA

    Hear hear!

    January 25, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  17. Amy

    Obama is really the only candidate who is best qualified to unite the country and get things done. Obama does not have the negative political history that the Clintons have of fighting with the Republicans. This country is in crisis and can not afford 4 years of gridlock and special interests with Hillary We, together, can change this country around with Obama.

    He is realistic and upfront with America. He is a candidate we can trust. And we can trust that he has listened to us and will really work for us. And with increased bipartisan support, he can actually get the job done.

    January 25, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  18. Lori

    And you think anything will be different with Hillary? NOT A CHANCE, we need sombody like Obama, that started at the bottom. Someone young like Obama that has many years ahead and will not burn himself.

    January 25, 2008 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  19. David, Atlanta

    Why pay now for what you can put off til a later date. Congress and the White House are both trying to stave off a recession and put money in peoples pockets right before an election. Those who understand economics will say this will be such a short term fix and will not stop the bigger problem. Yet it will increase out debt and possibly our trade deficit. Greenspan for years said American's are not saving. We are not offically in a recession. This stimulus package is really an election year ploy. Huckabee was right, if we buy foriegn products we will help other countries more than our own. I do not support Huckabee, but he was correct.

    January 25, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  20. Bill Clinton

    "Typical republican attitude."

    What attitude is that? The truth?

    January 25, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  21. Sean

    I couldn't agree with this man more. It is not our responsibility to support people who are irresponsible. People say they can't afford to live, but they are talking on their cell phones, while driving their new cars with satellite radio and DVD players on the way to pay 10$ for a movie ticket after their fast food meals. The person who best agrees with me on this is Ron Paul. His economic ideas are second to none in my opinion. Look into him at ronpaul2008.com. The media won't tell you what he thinks, because he is not the most popular, but he has great ideas.

    January 25, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  22. Patriot,NY

    You are right Gee. A typical "telling it like it IS" republican attitude. To bail out people who are not living responsibly only enables and encourages them to continue living irresponsibly and then expect other people (who do often go without) to bail THEM out. Lester Gilbert obviously knows the truth and lives according to it. Too bad there aren't enough people like him around. Thanky you Lester; you are an inspiration! Your wife, also!!!

    January 25, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  23. Dave in Raleigh

    Mr. Gilbert, you just don't understand. It's "free" money when it comes from the government. Just like universal health care. It's free! Aren't you listening? Oh, wait a minute...the money has to come from somewhere, doesn't it? Oh no, oh no, no! I just realized that "free" money was coming frome me! I have to earn it so the government can redistribute it...sounds kind of like the Soviet Union...

    January 25, 2008 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  24. Dave C - NJ

    Times have changed. We now have the internet, running water, and electricity.

    I myself went into foreclosure because of a messy divorce and got no bailout, so I can understand why this old "walked to school in the snow uphill both ways" type of guy doesn't want to see anyone get a hand

    But does he realize that the mortgage industry is a collective greedy pig that dumped impossible loans on many of us and warrants reform?

    He needs to turn the calender to 2008, lose the flannel, and get a younger wife.

    January 25, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  25. Conservative4Life, USA

    You're right Gee, it's just pathetic that people need to be responsible for their own actions. What are those Republicans thinking?

    January 25, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
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