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Matthew Hein:Measure 28: Lookin’ out for my neighbor

Sometimes my landlord rents to people who need a little kindness. I mean besides me. I mean even more kindness and attention than I need.

Sometimes the guy who lives downstairs needs help. Sometimes I give it to him. Other times I’m busy doing other stuff: writing a paper, cooking dinner or going out on a date.

Fortunately for me, the guy downstairs and our landlord, there’s a fellow who gets paid to help out the guy downstairs. That’s the fellow who gets called when some of my downstairs neighbor’s old troublemaking buddies come by after midnight and start kicking at his door.

I don’t know how many people this fellow gets paid to help. In social work, I guess they call those who need extra kindness and attention “clients.” I don’t know how many clients this fellow has, but I get the feeling talking to him he already works a few more hours a week than he’s paid for.

The last time he was over, he checked in on me to see how things were going, whether his client had been causing any trouble lately. I asked him what he himself would do if the funding for his social work position dried up. He told me he would be fine, that he drove cab in college and could do it again.

About the downstairs neighbor, he wasn’t so sure.

I do a little here and there for the downstairs neighbor. My landlord does a little here and there for the downstairs neighbor. But the people who get paid to keep an eye on him do more than either of us.

Libertarians, Oregon Republican Party Chairperson Perry Atkinson and other limited-government types must have some sort of plan for my neighbor. I don’t know exactly what it is, however, since they don’t come over very often.

The guy who does come over has his own family to take care of. He’s not a nun or a superhero (nor a combination of the two: “Supermonk?” “Nunman?”). He’s just a guy who has been well trained, who actually knows what he’s doing, and gets paid for doing his job.

Even when I was a ninth-grade no-goodnick, hanging out with my fellow troublemakers at Pioneer Square and Paranoia Park, I knew I couldn’t wear the A-in-the-circle brand of anarchism seriously. I was all too aware there were plenty of people who needed more kindness and attention than I was prepared to give them.

I’m sure those downtown-by-day, suburban-by-sunset glam punks have plans for my neighbor. I wouldn’t know exactly what they are, since I don’t see them over here too often.

Maybe they should all get together. They can hold celebratory dinners and dispense medals and points of light for every citizen kindness occurring within the state.

That millionaire behind the “Unity: Pass it on” commercials could host their party. Maybe a professional athlete will kick down a few grand for drinks or something. And then they can all come over.

Don’t get me wrong. When I get my paychecks and see the difference between the amount I allegedly earned and the amount I’m actually allowed to deposit, I wonder whether there aren’t a few people stuffing their pockets with my taxes. And nearly everyone is an anarchist for at least those couple of hours it takes to fill out their 1040 forms once a year.

Sending Measure 28 down to defeat won’t change the things I really want changed, however. It won’t cause my federal government to quit buying million-dollar weapons systems from big businesses that, thanks to their offshore dummy offices, avoid paying taxes themselves.

A vote against Measure 28 won’t make the state government decide to shut down the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. And most importantly, Measure 28’s failure certainly wouldn’t result in a vast number of intelligent and caring people to suddenly become well-trained social workers.

Regardless of what happens with the budget on Jan. 28, I’m still going to do occasional little things for my downstairs neighbor. My landlord is still going to rent to people who may not come off that well in interviews and have unflattering credit histories.

The guy who comes over to check on my downstairs neighbor will probably continue to be a nice guy. His skills and knowledge will probably continue to serve whomever he runs into in his day-to-day life.

I have a feeling that if Oregon’s budget doesn’t get a boost from citizens at the end of the month, there will be plenty of folks out on the street to serve. Assuming he can get the job back he last held a decade ago, and he doesn’t mind taking time away from his wife and kid and job, my neighborhood social worker might stop by every once in a while to see how my downstairs neighbor is getting along in the world.

This may be a rash generalization based on no statistical input whatsoever, but those people arguing against this tax probably won’t be crowded around the doorstep, lined up in anticipation of providing a lot of extra care and attention to a guy who needs all he can get.