We want to be part of neighbor-to-neighbor solutions to help the less fortunate.

Americans care about the poor. During a time of economic downturn, Americans gave a record $346 billion last year to charity. We give more to philanthropic organizations than any other country. So why does our government continue to hurt the poor with its policies and programs?

Since the beginning of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, the U.S. has spent roughly $16 trillion on welfare programs, yet the federal poverty rate today is nearly the same as it was in 1965. Welfare programs aren’t cruel because they annually redistribute billions of dollars from one group of Americans to another group of Americans. That may not be fair but isn’t tragic. Welfare programs are cruel because in the guise of helping people, they deprive them of the American dream.

A child dreams of growing up to be a teacher, a policewoman, a doctor, or a businesswoman; she does not dream of being on welfare. As the generational welfare cycle demonstrates, however, it is difficult to break out of that life when that is all one has ever experienced.

Since the War on Poverty began, the percentage of children born out of wedlock has increased from 7 percent to 40 percent (72 percent for African-American children). Most of these children will never know their fathers. They may not see a working adult. They’ll know the misery of dependence not the pride of self-sufficiency. Instead of having a family that feeds and clothes them, they’ll see these as the job of the government.

President Franklin Roosevelt couldn’t have said it better: “Continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit.”

Government welfare programs also impact the spirit of the giver. It fosters an “I gave at the office” attitude that one has fulfilled one’s obligation to his neighbor simply by paying taxes. Giving to charity, on the other hand, cultivates a sense of community, generosity, empathy in the giver. This neighbor-to-neighbor giving is more likely to foster gratitude in the recipient and a desire to give back. The object of the charity is not to cut a check to those who qualify, but to fulfill a temporary need and restore the person to a place of normalcy where they can pursue their dreams once again.

No one is suggesting an elimination of the safety net for those who physically cannot work, but for those who can work, it is time to reform welfare programs. Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” In this case it isn’t just insane, it’s wrong.

Did you know that 67.3 million Americans depend on government programs?

Giving from one’s own wallet is generous; giving from someone else’s wallet is theft. Ask politicians how they have personally helped their neighbor or community.