Compassion is a unique trait. It must be voluntary, or it is not compassion.
Imagine a family, poor by American standards, seeing before them a bleak Christmas. Few if any gifts, an old, sad-looking plastic Christmas tree. Mom and dad both work long hours, the kids are what we used to call "latch-key kids." They live a very humble life. Very few could look on these people with anything other than sympathy. Those of us who have been blessed want to help them; especially those of us who have seen similar hard times. "They need help!" we think. And they get it. They get it from private organizations, but they also get it in the form of WIC, Food-Stamps, and other government assistance.
Down the street is another family. This one somewhat more prosperous, but looking at a similar christmas. Mom got sick this year, and the car died. The furnace went out, and the refigerator, too. They make plenty of money, on paper, but unexpected costs have killed them this year. We look at them, too, with sympathy- yet they get far less help. Large organizations, as well as the government, look at income to determine if someone qualifies for assistance. They have limited resources, after all, and must prioritize. Individuals and smaller organizations, such as their local Church, may help some, but their resources are even more limited.
Considering this, why is it "compassionate" to provide tax-payer funded assistance to the first family, and deny to the other? That isn't compassion, especially since the second family is partially responsible for that tax-payer funded assistance the first family receives. We are literally taking from those in need to give to others in need.
When someone in the Government starts talking about "compassion" your best bet is to cover your wallet and run the other way. No bureaucracy, and especially not one which can demand funding, can be compassionate. They must, by definition, take from someone to give to someone else. It is not compassion if I take ten dollars from you, and give it to some homeless guy. It is, and can be, compassion only when you- knowing the cost to yourself- make the decision to give the ten dollars. Compassion, in fact, must be voluntary. It must be an individual choice.
George W. Bush, as much as I admired him for many things, made this mistake. He believed that we needed a "Compassionate Conservatism." This is quite the wrong track. "Conservatism" as a philosophy is completely independent of "Compassion." Neither is required for the other, nor are they mutually exclusive. I, as a Conservative, am compassionate. Conservatism itself cannot speak to "compassion" at all. Any given Liberal may be compassionate (if, statistically speaking, less so than any given Conservative). Liberalism itself cannot speak to "compassion" at all.
When we allow the Government to cloak redistribution in the rhetoric of "Compassion" what we are really doing is allowing them to steal from the productive and give to the unproductive. There are many fine people who rely on Tax-payer-funded assistance of many varieties, and my heart weeps for them. But they do not have the right to coerce me to pay for their upkeep. If you are working, and trying to get by, then any number of local, private organizations exist to help you. Indeed, if less of our money was being stolen to pay for those who are milking the system, they would be both willing and able to help you more. As long as Government remains in the business of wealth redistribution, whether in the name of "fairness" or "compassion," or anything else, true compassion will be limited and- ultimately- snuffed-out.