January 25th, 2008
12:49 PM ET
7 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. Scott - El Paso, TX

    Great post Karen. This has become the entitlement generation. Too many people today will spend money on entertainment first before using their money for basic necessities. Everyone wants to keep up with the Joneses without having the means to do it.
    People gambled by taking out subprime or interest only loans in order to have more house than they actually need and the gamble didn't pay off.
    I totally agree Karen, because I have lived responsibly I do not feel that I should pay for their gamble via the government.

    January 25, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  2. Steven

    Dave C in NJ,

    You have a point but "it takes two to tango". Nobody asked the consumers to sign a contract for a house they clearly could not afford! Greed and ignorance is a powerful and serious combination! That is why we have the mess we have now. Mr. Gilbert is absolutely point on! At the same time not everyone having a difficult time caused it themselves! And for all who think you are getting FREE money. Wake up! You are all are paying for the free money going to people who don't pay taxes at all!. It's not free money, it's MY money!

    January 25, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  3. Tikara, Warsaw, Indiana

    Why is it that people yell about personal responsiblity, "I didn't get a loan why should I pay for it", and yet not say a word when the government gives millions of dollars to companies who make the same bad decisions over and over again?? I agree if I can't afford something I don't buy it, but I don't like the fact that major companies don't do the same, or they have "offices" outside the US to avoid paying taxes, not because it's that much of a burden, but because it would cut into the CEO's bonuses. THAT's not right!

    January 25, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  4. Evergreen State


    We are all drawing benefits from our social structure. We needn't cater to everyone's every whim, but in ignoring the plight of others we risk losing everything.

    Really? We're all drawing benefits? My check my be going to someone else's mailbox. I personally have nothing wrong with welfare, as long as it goes to those who DESERVE it. Not to the baby machines, illegals, and those who don't know how to do anything but apply for credit cards. I am not working everyday and paying taxes so others can get out of bankruptcy. If the great John Kennedy were alive today, he sure as hell would not be considered a democrat.

    January 25, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  5. Peter

    He needs to meet with real people. What route is he driving through?
    I do have a question. Every war the US has been involved in we always pay to rebuild those we supported. Shouldn't Iraq reimbuse us with oil? Why should Americans suffer finacially? I don't understand. This policy that we must rebuild other countries after wars we help them fight has been going on since world war 1. Is not the sacrifice of our young men and woman be more than enough?

    January 25, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  6. a,d,sutton claremont, ca

    Perfect comment about his customers paying cash for cars that make a job for him. One in how many are in debt for the cars he delivers? I took a loan on my home to buy an apt. bldg. Interest began at 4.5%. Who knew the FED would raise it to nearly 8% in 2 years? I was lucky to have stock to sell to pay it off early–but others got stuck with our "Investor-Controlled" economy. As a 2-bit investor, I was part of the system–but only because "That's the way things are."
    The same thing happened when I lost half the value of stock overnight.
    What's left of my stocks are worth less than half what they were last summer The Bush war to let investors dip their beaks in Iraq oil profits has us in recession–although that is denied Veep Cheney and his Halliburton are beneficiaries of our taxes spent on war merchandise.
    This man is a perfect example of living in a past that forced savings or ruin on people and can't understand the system itself causes problems.

    January 25, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  7. Rob

    It's about time we hear more about people standing up for and demanding personal responsibility and accountability. If more people were accountable for their own actions we could come together as a country to deal with real issues that are painful today while also being proactive about avoiding future problems.

    January 25, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  8. Dave C - NJ

    All of you don't seem to mind that your taxes everyday are being used for corporate welfare. Aren't the big corporations "people you never met" as well?

    I don't like welfare and food stamps either, but this mortgage crisis is to fight a corrupt system of corrupt lending. Many people were mislead and now the corporations are the ones crying the loudest because they did not bank correctly on the number of foreclosures.

    You sheep are comparing the whole thing to welfare. It's not the same thing.

    And besides, you pay FAR more corporate welfare than you do to people living in poverty...look it up.

    January 25, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  9. carole

    Anyone who doesn't agree with this man has an entitlement mentality.

    Why should tax payers bail out people who over spend????

    January 25, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  10. Steve

    Is this John McCain's dad? Who is this geezer...irrelevant. Why don't we go to a mental clinic to find a pulse?

    January 25, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  11. Dave C - NJ

    Really carole...want a long list of big businesses that the govt used your taxes to "bail out"?

    January 25, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  12. Terry, El Paso, TX

    carole wrote "Anyone who doesn't agree with this man has an entitlement mentality."

    Banks employ marketing experts with advanced degrees put together the advertising and marketing campaigns for their subprime loan program, to entice the naive consumer. Economists and mangement experts figured out how to loan subprime money to the sucker then sell the loan to someone else, so they would not be stuck with the hot paper. Customer service personnel were trained to sell and close these deals. The people who have been burned are not the people who designed this scam – which is what it was. They are rich and secure. The people who are being burned are the purchasers of the loan, the purchasers of the house, and the tax payers – who always end up paying for corporate boondoggles like this one.

    January 25, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  13. CURTIS

    As a african american I say THIS MAN IS RIGHT, AND A LOT OF MY PEOPLE AND MANY OTHERS IN THIS COUNTRY SEEM NOT TO KNOW WHAT PERSONAL RESONSIBILTY IS OH YEAH IM 28 YEARS OLD AND I KNOW WHAT IT MEANS THE WORST THING ANY YOUNG PERSON CAN DO IS GET CREDIT CARDS AND BUY TO MUCH HOUSE. TO MANY PEPOLE ARE IMPAIENT NOW EVERY THING IS QUICK RUSH RUSH RUSH NOW NOW NOW WITHOUT PROPER PLANNING OF FORSITE OF WHAT MAYBE THE FINAL OUTCOME I SAY NO BAILOUT FOR ANYBODY P.S. THEY SHOULD END WELFARE TO... AND IM A DEMOCRAT AND IM NOT RICH EITHER

    January 25, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  14. David, Santa Maria, CA

    Mr. Gilbert is right on. Too bad politicians dont listen to folks like him and try to use our money to buy themselves their congressional seat. And too many people think al those handouts are free money. The tax rebate is not free money, well except for all those who will get a check and pay no taxes. Meanwhile those who pay the vast majority of the taxes will get nothing because they are "the evil RICH".

    People are too busy trying to keep up with everyone and spend themseves to oblivion. Our spending doesnt help our economy , it helps China and the rest of the slave labor countries. The high pay of unions have raised our expenses of life and outsourced themselves out of a job.

    This country has a disease of materialism and it is sending us down the road all great empires traveled, extinction. Our country has lost its work ethic and is now filled with people who want nothing but comfort, jobs filled by illegals and undereducated we pay to serve us. We feel entitled not grateful for the American lifestyle, we forget what it took to get here. Politicans who pander that laziness to keep themseves in office. Our God has become money and the good things in life. America will go the way of the DoDo just like the Romans, Babylonians, Egyptians, and Greeks. History always repeats itself.

    January 25, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  15. Lee, Anthony NM

    D says, "Furthermore, the ensuing 'rebate checks' will not be free by any means."

    D is right. The rebate checks are not free. I'm sure Lester and many of the rest of your will be sending them back to the government or shredding them. We don't need no government handouts.

    Actually, the Chinese are loaning us the money for these rebates. If you do spend the money, at least buy American.

    January 25, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  16. GaryO Virginia Beach

    Lester Gilbert is absolutely right.

    Why should a person who has been reasonable about his own finances be compelled to bail out others who have been careless with their finances?

    It's all about accountability, and that is going to be a big issue in the general election.

    January 25, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  17. rw

    75 and 81 year old couple still working. This is the generation that made America great. Not the whiny, do-for-me, greedy baby boomer generation, nor the MTV, video game obsessed faties that want it all now and not have to work their way up to it.

    Admirable people in their inner strength and self reliance.

    January 25, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  18. pam Eugene OR

    I would vote for this guy! What is wrong with some personal responsibility? There are a few innocents out there that possibly lost a job or became ill but for the most part it is was speculation and wanting to turn a quick buck. A lot of people thought they could turn these houses in a hot market and got caught with their pants down.
    I say help the people who made honest mistake but to hell with the people who just flat overspent.
    This is one smart man.

    January 25, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  19. Bob, Roxboro, NC

    $600 per eh?

    What a knucklehead idea! Ever stop to think how much of that money will wind up in Chinese hands?

    January 25, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  20. Jack Newport

    Cash Back

    If the government gave you six hundred dollars Cash Back what would you
    do with the money? Salsa lessons?

    Bubba said – “Well I lost my home so my credit is bad and I can not qualify
    for a loan. But the government must think I know how to save the US economy.
    Maby I could get my car back from that title company. Or the fastest way to get
    the money back in circulation is to catch a bus to the nearest casino. I will think
    like the government and try a wild and reckless gambling spree and hope for the best. I only wish I had a hundred and fifty billion to bet with.”

    The Stock Broker said – “ If only people would put that money in the market.
    The numbers are green now and they will stay green until the stock market
    draws in the suckers. Then we short the market and suck off the profit.
    Now that may sound bad, but when you do not know what your doing
    you should invest for the long term. Maby in ten years your stock will
    be worth what you paid for it.”

    Hillbil’lary said – “ I will put that money toward my campaign. If I win I
    will be the next one to piss off the money. I will give everyone free
    (Feaking Rob Everyone’s Economy) heath care. I have free health
    care you pay for it. I think you should pay for free health care for
    everyone who does not want to work for a living. I think all of you
    could do with a little less money. You pay for my health care I never
    hear you complain about that?”

    January 25, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  21. Ruth

    He sounds like a Ron Paul supporter. Since the media has decided to exclude Ron Paul from any coverage he probably doesnt know who he is.

    Hey, you now have upto $600 to make your financial situation better. Like Donald Trump said "I am going to buy a bar of soap". Reducing interest rates will stimulate more people to buy bigger houses than they can afford.

    Since the media is underhandedly excluding candidates and manipulating your opinion go to the candidates websites and read about every candidate.

    Ron Paul has my vote. Freedom!!!

    January 25, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  22. harold

    This ole boy has a right to his opinion, but he misses a big point...that the mortgage mess was allowed by the usa government failing to regulate the loan business...as usual its the republicans who want small government, no regulation and just let the boys be boys attitude.

    Well if you don't regulate the behavior and let people get loans that are nothing but con games and get rich quick schemes of business and the loan industry this is what you get..

    Shall we repeat 1929 again to learn something?

    January 25, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  23. Henry

    Sad to say, but Mr. Gilbert pretty much tells it the way it is. And I appreciate that too! Self-discipline and self-responsibility are in such short supply these days. Grossly enlarged sense of entitlement and finger-pointing, on the other hand, well, there's plenty of that!

    January 25, 2008 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  24. mr.fair tax

    GILBERT YOUR DA MAN!!!
    I LOVE YOUR VALUES!!!

    January 25, 2008 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  25. observer

    I agree completely! When I bought my home, I bought what I knew I could afford. I knew the terms of the loan, etc. We depend too much on some one else to bail us out each time we make a wrong decesion. If I've only got 10 dollars, I can't spend 20 and ask the public to pay the other 10. Get real and be responsible. I'm busy paying my own bills, I don't want to take on anyone else's. Buy only what you can afford.

    January 25, 2008 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
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