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ERIE COUNTY LEADERSHIP -- GOD HELP US: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Erie County has suffered the biggest drop in population since 2000 of any county in New York State. There are a number of contributing factors for this trend, but high among them is excessive public spending that drives taxes up and businesses out. Much of that spending supports government bureaucracy.

But when County Executive Joel Giambra suggests studying a regional police force or shared services that might save taxpayers some money, members of the political class like Cheektowaga Supervisor Dennis Gabryszak and Amherst Supervisor Susan Grelick act like somebody wants to sell their nearest relatives into slavery.

We've asked this before, but the question bears repeating: What, exactly, is working so well around here that we shouldn't change the way we do the public's business? We wonder what Gabryszak and Grelick thought about when they learned of the Census figures for the county. Given their infatuation with the status quo, perhaps they yelled out, "We're No. 1."

NEWS FROM THE CLASS WARFARE FRONT: The Treasury Department, apparently trying to combat criticism that the Bush tax cuts have disproportionately helped the rich, has come out with a fact sheet that claims a small group of higher-income taxpayers pays most of the individual income tax each year, and that the burden these people bear has increased as a result of the tax cuts. But as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes, by focusing only on the federal income tax and leaving out all other federal taxes, Treasury has unabashedly distorted the tax picture.

The Treasury report said the 1 percent of taxpayers with the highest incomes paid 33.7 percent of U.S. individual income taxes in 2002. But a new analysis by the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office shows that this group pays a substantially smaller proportion -- 21.1 percent -- of federal taxes overall, including payroll, excise and other taxes.

Also, as a result of the three major tax cut bills enacted since 2001, the top 1 percent of taxpayers will receive average tax cuts of nearly $35,000 in 2005, according to new data from the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center, or 47 times the average tax cut that the middle fifth of taxpayers will receive.

And, of course, those figures will tilt even further toward the affluent when the repeal of the estate tax kicks in. The rich really are different -- or, at least, treated differently by this administration.

CLASS WARFARE (CONTINUED): Even though high-income taxpayers pay a significant share of federal taxes, their actual tax burden -- the percentage of income that they pay in federal taxes -- has declined over the years. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the top 1 percent of households paid a slightly smaller share of their income in federal taxes in 2002 than they paid in any year since 1992. Further, since 2002, the percentage of income they pay in federal taxes has dropped significantly, as cuts in the top income tax rates, capital gains and dividend rates have come into play.