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. Paul Bevington

    Lester is 75, so he grew up during the 50's and 60's when we experienced phenominal growth in our economy. If he has trouble seeing where people are in trouble, tell him to stop in some of the small towns and actually go to places that poor people go to...the dollar store and discount grocery stores. I know I am a school teacher, hold a bachlor's degree, and bring home (not gross) approximately $22,000.00 a year. I raise my two children and support my elderly mother on this amount, then I am hit with studenmt loan payments of $285.00 a month. I figured it out, and on a 19,000.00 student loan, my "low-interest" government loans (which I will make my final payment on when I an 70) will be paid back for a total of $85,500.00. I know that I have experienced "being down", and it is no fun, and it seems like I am gonna experience it until I am 70, but my heart goes out to those who are in the same boat. Whatever happened to christian charity?

    January 25, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  2. Larry

    January 25, 2008 1:20 pm ET

    Typical republican attitude.

    Whats wrong with personal responsibility?

    January 25, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  3. Conan

    Lester Gilbert for President!!!!!!

    January 25, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    This is the dumbest, non-news article I ever read.

    January 25, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  5. Evergreen State

    Typical liberal comment.

    This old man could not be more right. Everyone has to buy, buy, buy. No one saves. Have too much credit card debt? No problem! File bankruptcy and let some else pay for it. In fact, the government and everyone who makes more money then me should pay my bills!! How sad....

    Can't afford that house payment? Why did you buy in the first place?

    Want to make more money? Get an education!

    Personal Responsiblity = an American Value that has long been extinct.

    January 25, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  6. Jon H., Denver, CO

    someone with common sense - a rarity on CNN!

    January 25, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  7. demwit

    Take care of ourselves? What medication is he on..

    January 25, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  8. Chris, Middletown, CT

    Typical Democrat blog...."the sky is falling...the sky is falling....gimme gimme gimme....what can the government do for me now...I have given up on helping myself....I need some of that rich american money....and free programs..." – Gee..give us all a break....

    January 25, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  9. Gee

    I mean that it's a good typical republican attitude.

    January 25, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  10. Donald, Butte, MT

    He's right, noone wants to be held accountable for their financial woes, and that includes Congress and th President.

    When these people took out these loans they and the lendors knew they couldn't afford the payments, much less the interest payments. I've gone through this process and from what I was required to present it is apparent there was a lot of lying and manipulation of fianancial documents to get these loans processed through the various underwriting departments.

    Let the mortgage lenders and underwriters pay for their mistakes now - they've already made their huge profits - so be it. Then the 'unfortuante (sic) homeowners can face foreclosure and the end results. I dont' feel sorry or any pity for them they are the ones buying homes well beyond their means with 1-2 mortgages taken out to make the initial down payment and subsequent house payments, plus their car payments and credit card bills all rolled into their home loans.

    It is about time people lived within their means and that house prices were adjusted downward. Its ridiculous how high their inflated prices have risen.

    January 25, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  11. Kim

    Well they are working AND collecting Social Security, Medicare.....

    I'm sorry to say this, but older people have way too much influence on the political proces, mostly because they have the luxury of having time to participate.

    I don't like 80 year olds deciding what is best for a the country.

    January 25, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  12. Stephanie

    Finally someone says it as it should be said. Mr. Lester Gilbert should run for President.

    January 25, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  13. Jo, ATL GA


    You own economy will go belly up with theirs too. CNN educate the people instead of having your reporter stand with his gran pa and lie.

    The economy affects everyone. Hence Gov has to get invloved or he will get thrown out of the job he has or you CNN layoff this reporter because of no adverting dollar.

    CNN stop the lies. It is a world economy and it affects everyone.

    January 25, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  14. Bill, Albany, NY

    I find it funny when conservatives preach personal responsibility and minding your own business but when it comes to gays and lesbians wanting marry and be happy. They trot out their holy men (Robertson, Dobson, Perkins, Donahue) and I use that term loosely to say that its evil and we must protect the children, America will be destroyed if "those" people get to marry. Gee what happend to staying out of your life then? Dont vote for Republicans who say they will stay out of your life and then turn around and pander to the religious right. Dont vote Democrat who will take your hard earned money to pay for those who wont work. Vote Libertarian.

    January 25, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  15. JP

    This guy is right on and Gee - you're an idiot. I've wasted the time in reading some of your other comments and clearly you're so far left that you will never be right. As a person who is slave to no political party, I can honestly say it's time for people to start taking responsibility for their own actions and for the Government to start holding big business accountable for their corrupt and deceitfult actions. Problem is - all of these fools are in bed with whoever has the money. And right now, it sure isn't the regular american just trying to make it.

    January 25, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  16. Karen

    I'm an Independent now after many years as a Dem. My other post is in moderation. I don't expect it out anytime soon. My view: we have worked our butts off and saved. If we can't pay cash we go without. I don't want to bail anyone out.

    January 25, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  17. William

    He said he was conservative, not Republican.

    This guy is absolutely correct. Too many people manage their money poorly. Basic "earning, saving and spending" common sense needs to begin in elementary schools to install good financial habits for their future.
    Just listen to the big name financial experts.....Orman...Ramsey....and others; they focus on common sense.

    January 25, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  18. CJ, Richmond, VA

    Thank you, Mister Gilbert. Fiscal irresponsibility is what is plaguing our economy, and it's not just congresss and the senate! There are too many Americans ensnared by deficit spending. Why is the housing market going belly up? Because people have been trying to live outside their means. Why is there no real money in the economy? Because people are running up thousands of dollars in consumer (read unneccessary) debt! Too many people are too willing to point the finger of blame at others for their economic woes- "The rich don't pay enough taxes" "Government doesn't give out enough entitlements," but I wonder how many of those same people refuse to stop eating out or to give up their 180 channels and TiVos. I know there are some out there who legitimately do their very BEST to do without and scrimp and save, but most Americans don't know what real poverty is. All we have to do is to look at other places in the world to see how good we have it. So before you start complaining, don't forget it's your privilege to have a TV, a privilege to have a car, a privilege to have your X-box, a privilege to have your lap-top, a privilege to have your iPod, NOT A RIGHT!

    January 25, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  19. blueghost

    Obama has promised to pimp my ride so I can buy my teenager a new ipod and cell phone that they can play with as they fail their way through high school and then blame the teachers for not being able to get a job beyond flipping hamburgers. Luckily I will join the union so that Obama can double my minimum wage so I can have even more children to repeat the cycle all over again.

    Keep working hard Lester Gilbert- the poor people watching day time television are counting on it.

    January 25, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  20. Paul

    This man speaks the truth. When I receive the $600 it is going into my savings and I am not spending 1c of it. The truth is that the corporate tax breaks may stimulate the economy but it most likely will just increase very few persons bottom lines over the cost of the rest of us.

    It is TIME for a Democratic party to enter the White House. I wonder who Mrs. Clinton who ask to run with her for Vice President, I hope it will be someone good.

    January 25, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  21. AS

    Kim, if you don't like 80 year olds deciding what's best for the country, then go out and vote yourself (the "luxury of time" argument is flawed; voting is not a luxury to be indulged in, it's a responsibility to be taken care of).

    The imbalance of one demographic of voters exerting influence on the political process is not solved by reducing that group of people, but rather increasing the other groups.

    Or in other words, responsible citizens who vote should not be penalized for the laziness and misplaced priorities of those who are "too busy" to vote, but seemingly always find time to complain about the elected leaders.

    January 25, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  22. John

    Stupid comment Kim! Personally, I don't mind any American citizen having a opinion about the county, no matter what their age. And by the way, it's the 80 year olds that made this country what it is by being willing to sacrificing their lives during war and working their tails off when they returned to do what was best for this country. I wonder how they feel to see the younger generation piss it away.

    January 25, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  23. Steve Lewisville TX

    Amen Mr. Gilbert...The Boomers think EVERYTHING is entiled to EVRYONE and the sad thing is they've convinced many X-ers of the same thing. Many people have become blind, whiny, sheep that feel they simply DESERVE anything without consequences and if something does go wrong...well, it certainly can't be their fault. Regards...Steve 34

    January 25, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  24. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    "I don't like 80 year olds deciding what is best for a the country."

    I don't like anyone deciding what's best for me! But that's exactly what the Democrats insist on trying to do. They want to tell us all how to manage our own health care, our retirements, and how much of the money we earn has to be given to total strangers who have somehow become "entitled" to the contents of our wallets. And every single one of these attitudes reflects an abject contempt for our ability to make those personal decisions ourselves.

    I get the strong impression that, secretly, the Dems running for office think of themselves as the parents to an entire nation of not-very-bright children. And that people who vote for the Dems just want Mommy Hillary and Daddy Barack to take care of them so they don't have to take any personal responsibility for their own affairs.

    January 25, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  25. Marc

    It's simple economics, folks. Give people free money and they pump into the economy. It's done because it works, quite frankly.

    I too don't care for 80 year olds deciding what's best for the country.

    January 25, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
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