Updated: Mar 6, 2020
Government duties and personal duties are, and should be, different. What I do for my fellow Man, and what government does, need to be different. Indeed, they are. In the Old Testament of the Bible, before Israel asked for a king, God sent the Israelites into battle, instructing them to leave none alive. However, in the same Old Testament, we are told, "Do not kill." Is this duplicity in God? Of course not! Israel was a theocracy, with God as the Head, acting as the government. He even told the Israelites when they asked for a king, like other nations have, that the king would send them into battle. God definitely sees a difference between the government and personal actions, as it was He who said not to kill, as part of the Ten Commandments. Why do I bring this up? It's important to know the difference between governmental actions & duties and personal actions & duties.
On January 10th, 1794, James Madison, during arguments on the Floor of the House said, "Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government." Indeed, he is right. The government's job is to enact laws that are blind as to whom the end-user might be. A law needs to be applied to anyone exactly the same way as it is to anyone else. The idea of charity automatically breeds inequality, as there are some who qualify and others who don't. The need is there, so if the government shouldn't provide charity, then who? I'm so glad you asked. Since we already mentioned the Bible, let's stay in our lane. Acts 20:35, 1 John 3:17, Acts 9:36, Luke 11:41, Proverbs 14:21 are among the many verses in the Bible that allude to, and inform us of our duty to provide charity to those in need. It is the Church (the people, not the buildings) who have a duty to provide charity. As some do not follow a specific church - in fact sometimes none at all, let's use the term "charitable organization".
Throughout history, when government offers charity, it marks the beginning of the end for a civilization/government. Why? Alexander Fraser Tytler (or Alexis de Tocqueville - you decide) is quoted as saying in one of his many lectures at the University of Edinburgh circa 1800, "A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.
The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; From spiritual faith to great courage; From courage to liberty; From liberty to abundance; From abundance to selfishness; From selfishness to complacency; From complacency to apathy; From apathy to dependence; From dependence back into bondage." In fact, the US officially moved into this category with the establishment of our welfare program by FDR in 1935, and it has been hotly contested in one way or another ever since.
The warning is real. The problem is not small. How do we help those who need it, but not have the government do it? Here's my fix. It's a multi-tiered path, so bear with me - you will understand by the end.
We first need to get rid of the Federal individual income tax, as we currently know it. All federal taxes in force need to be stopped in their current form - transportation tax; liquor tax, etc, etc. I'll address the individual tax last, but the others, I'll address right now.
Repeal the 17th Amendment. To understand why, see my post on this topic here.
States should collect all taxes on commerce, trade, income, and any other activities I'm not listing here. The Federal government taxes the states out of these tax funds for interstate roads, entry ports, military, government offices/agencies, and personnel.
States collect these taxes in their own methods in whatever methods they see fit: Income tax, state sales tax, any other tax. If a particular state seems overwhelmingly high in their tax methods and means, then an individual can simply move their family to a state where the tax burden is less. Over socialistic states will suffer from this move of population more than those who have less state interference.
Now to the Feds - see, I told you I'd get here. There's no need to repeal the 16th Amendment (income tax started). Simply tweak how it's applied. The Federal income tax is reduced across the board to a simple 7% net tax with no deductions. To account for hardships on those under a certain family income level, have its implementation start at an acceptable level.
Now to the good part. We started by trying to get charity to come from charitable organizations, not the government. This is the only deduction allowed on the Federal income tax. For every $1 given to charity, it reduced your Federal tax bill by $1. If you give 7% of your net income to charity, and can show this through charitable receipts, then you owe nothing to the Federal government on that year's tax bill. Yes, giving over this amount would be transferable to future tax bills. Charities would have to show that over 75% of funds received are used for non-administrative purposes to be eligible for tax reduction.
It really is that simple. The overall money the Federal government gets would be drastically reduced as all of the federally funded welfare programs would disappear. The states would collect more, and likely keep more, allowing for more use of funds at the state level - where it should be, anyway. Right now the average person gives around 3.5% of their net income to charity. This would effectively double the ability of charitable organizations to do what God commanded us to do - give to the poor, take care of widows and orphans, and provide for those in need.