I think you did interpret it wrong. It's not that Americans donít give to charity, because we do. It's that no charity is large enough or has enough money to tackle nationwide problems. Also, the freeloader problem is still a problem. Also, plenty of people are threatened with eternal damnation and torture their entire childhoods and still manage to give zero fucks, so I don't think that's really an effective way to get people to part with their money.
Look up "collective action problem".
It makes no sense to voluntarily pay more for some social services unless you know that others will. In fact, that's how *all of society* works! Since it's in your self-interest to free-ride, we have something called a government that makes rules to ensure that public goods are paid for by... the public.
The whole "why don't you pay more taxes then" argument is stupid, because all of human civilization is built on the idea that, in fact, you can't trust people to contribute their fair share without some sort of authority to make them do it.
Maybe I am interpreting this wrong but people give to charity all the time without some authority making them do it.
Also, it's kind of a silly argument. Sure, people donate to charities all the time. Charities, however, aren't going to run school districts, inspect buildings for code (safety) violations, pave roads, run libraries, clean and maintain parks, enforce laws, care for orphans, create and inforce regulation protecting our health, etc. Taxes force everyone to pay their fair share of resources they either use directly themselves or that others currently use and they might someday use themselves.
I understand waht you are saying. Charities have run schools, libraries, hospitals and taken care of orphans in the past. Actually, other than "enforce laws" the free market could handle everything else.
I've read that Americans are one of the most charitable peoples in the world (in terms of percentage of people self-reporting as having donated to charity, volunteered, or helped a stranger.)
That said, one issue with charities vs. government agencies is coverage. Sure, it's great if you have a NGO food pantry or church hospital in a community. But what if you don't? Government services may not be great but at least they are available to everyone in the state. Whereas although private charities may be served with passion and care, coverage will be patchy.
Anyway, there is room for both government and privately administered groups to work... there is certainly no lack of problems to solve, and Americans definitely have enough spare money to help all, or would if people weren't greedy (it was estimated that in 2006 alone, Americans owed $450 billion more in taxes than they actually paid, possibly due to black market activity and tax havens.)
Let government establish a decent baseline of nutrition, shelter, health, safety, and education for all, and then there is plenty of opportunity for private/free market initiatives to raise quality of life beyond that.