Let me make a wild statement:
Charity is essentially a tax on humanitarianism.
Before the good-hearted readers pelt me with rotting vegetables and angry comments, let me point out I called it humanitarianism and I'm not against wise humanitarianism.
As far as I'm concerned, the point of humanitarianism or charitable acts is not to make personal sacrifices, it's to help those less fortunate (which can require us to make sacrifices). The differences are crucial. Charity gets what funds happen to come its way. It can spend money to try to attract more donors, but there's no way to see that there's enough for all the needy. There are lots of various charitable organizations with no connection to each other. A charity that can help you with some of your needs may or may not be able to direct you to an appropriate charity to help with your other needs. And even if they can, there's no central body that could arrange to put the organizations to help with various needs together in one building. Many times, the functions of a charity are carried out by volunteers, causing greater uncertainty as to when it will be adequately staffed.
Those issues need not apply with government services. If more funds are needed, the government can increase the collection of revenue to maintain full services. As much help as is needed can be provided to as many people as need it. Isn't that the goal we want to achieve? The government may not always do it, but it certainly has the capability to offer the various services for the needy in one place.
Those who argue for less government services and funds, and having the needy depend on charity are saying, "If you're a heartless greedy SOB, you're exempted from helping the needy. If you're a moral person you should pay your fair share plus you're subject to an additional tax to compensate for the selfish bastards." It's a tax on humanitarianism. And it means moving towards greater insecurity for the needy who will never know whether local charities have the resources to help them.
The suggestion that conservatives and the wealthy merely prefer to aid the needy through charity groups rather than through government services is inconsistent with the facts. Studies have shown a smaller part of donations to non-profits by the well-to-do go to helping the poor compared to donations by lower and middle income people. The super-rich donate a higher percentage of their incomes to non-profits than those making between $200,000 and $10 million - although the percentage the super-rich give is not sufficiently more than the percentage given by low to middle income people (the super-rich don't donate at a rate comparable to properly progressive taxation). A more accurate measure of generosity is what percentage of one's wealth / assets makes up their donations. For the $25,000 - $50,000 group it's 1.6%, for the $25,000 - $200,000 group it's 1%, for the super-rich it's 1.2%. The super-rich give a little more than some who make less, but not that much more. And less of what they give goes to the truly poor.
[Links to some articles on charity, income and wealth can be found at the end of this article]
Currently, the super-rich get to pay a tax rate on capital gains that's about half the rate for an equal amount of wages. In addition to income taxes, working people have to pay an additional Social Security tax which the idle rich don't pay. Other taxes such as sales taxes are regressive. Then the rich and super-rich don't contribute as much as they should to charity. The solution is a progressive taxation system that ensures that they pay their fair share and which fully funds needed services for the poor.
We should be working to eliminate as many of the charitable organizations as possible. Not because they're not examples of good-hearted people, but because there's a better way to achieve more of what those charities are trying to do.
And because we want to teach our children to be decent humans. We want kids growing up in a society that says helping the needy is a moral imperative - it's important enough for the government to collect money and provide services for them. We want them to learn by example that if you don't give a damn about those less fortunate than yourself, society won't just shrug its shoulders at your callousness to fellow members of society. Society says you have both rights and responsibilities. If you want the benefits of living in a prosperous society, there's also a duty to contribute back to that society.
Not only should we be teaching our children the right thing to do is to give something to help the less fortunate, but to say the more you have the more you can afford to give - and therefore your fair share is calculated on a different scale. Teach them there are rules about how much you should give. If you want to give more than that, it's voluntary.
Giving by Affluent Is Less Generous on Basis of Assets (Wall St. Journal)
Giving Based on Assets Rather Than Income (NY Times)
The Generosity of Rich and Poor (Toledo Community Foundation)
Patterns of Household Charitable Giving by Income Group (Center on Philanthropy)
Trying to fix poverty & other social problems by a virtuous few doing charitable work is like trying to end climate change by an interested minority biking to work and putting paper in recycling bins. Those are nice things to do. It will put a small dent in the problem, but really big problems with really big consequences have to be taken on by every member of society through government action.