First came President Barack Obama’s proposal to reduce the tax deductions for charitable contributions. Now Cash for Clunkers, as predicted, is also hurting charities nationwide. USA Today reports:

Charities across the country are concerned that the popular “cash-for-clunkers” program will entice people to junk old cars for credit toward new ones rather than donate them.

“We know there’s going to be a significant impact,” says Chad Iseman, director of the Kidney Cars program for the National Kidney Foundation. Iseman says the foundation gets about 19% of its annual revenue from selling donated cars. The charity said it estimates a 10% to 15% decline because of the federal rebates.

“Really, the only question is to what degree cash-for-clunkers is going to affect our bottom line and our ability to serve our constituents,” says Iseman, who, along with Goodwill CEO Jim Gibbons, met with members of Congress in April to express concern.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Washington consistently spent $21,000 per household. By 2019 under President Obama’s budget, Washington would be spending $33,000 per household. As Heritage fellow Ryan Messmore explains, every little expansion of government comes at the cost to civil society:

As government claims responsibility for more tasks, it absorbs the allegiance that citizens once placed in other relationships and forms of association. When the federal government assumes more responsibility for fulfilling the moral obligations among citizens, it tends to undermine the perceived significance and authority of local institutions and communities.

This encourages citizens, instead of looking to their families, churches, or local communities for guidance and assistance, to depend on the government for education, welfare, and various other services. As individuals begin to look more consistently to the government for support, the institutions that are able to generate virtues like trust and responsibility begin to lose their sway in the community. Excessive bureaucratic centralization thus sets in motion a dangerous cycle of dependence and social decay.