A recent report issued by the conservative Yankee Institute claimed that Connecticut state employees are much better compensated than private-sector employees doing similar work.

Considering the agenda-setting, far right-wing nature of the Yankee Institute, their claim is not surprising and it’s also demonstrably false. The report’s methodology is so is so full of errors and disinformation that Machiavelli himself would be ashamed to use it.

Keep in mind, the Yankee Institute is not a neutral academic policy institute but a right wing propaganda machine part of the $83 million “State Policy Network” and connected to the Koch Brothers and other billionaires of the far right.

What’s more disturbing is that propaganda like this is treated as legitimate research and news by the main stream media.

So that leaves us to speak truth to the dangerous power these groups represent.

The author of the report works for the American Enterprise Institute, a long time multi-national business controlled “think tank” that was reported by the Guardian Newspaper as “offering scientists and economists $10,000 each” to issue papers casting doubt on global warming. To refute the plethora of disinformation in the Yankee Institute study would take more space than is available here.

But as one example, the study’s author takes a pension plan that costs the state approximately 5 percent of payroll, and counts it as “at least 26 percent” through a series of mathematical contortions that would do Houdini proud. That alone accounts for almost all the alleged “overpayment” of state employees, not to mention numerous convenient mistakes in calculating salaries and comparative benefits.

For more than three decades, policies of billionaires like the Koch Brothers and their mouthpieces like the Yankee Institute have encouraged economic growth benefiting the top 1% in our country. Meanwhile, middle class and working families have been stagnant or moving backwards even as productivity has more than doubled.

These policies have gone hand in hand with attacks on institutions that bring ordinary Americans a voice in the process and a chance at economic security; organizations like unions or safety net mechanisms like defined benefit plans that helped build a strong American middle class. New research shows that the decline in union membership correlates with a weakening middle class and growing income inequality.

So what the Yankee Institute’s vision of “smaller government based on free market principles” really means is freedom for the billionaires and multinational corporations to do whatever they want however they want to do it at the expense of the American middle class — the backbone of our country — without the interference of pesky things like unions trying to lift the middle class or elected officials trying to raise the minimum wage.

That level of honesty, however, doesn’t make good politics. Whether it’s ALEC and their member groups like the Yankee Institute’s plan to hijack state governments, or the Koch Brother’s announced plan to spend $900 million to buy the presidency, they are doomed to failure if their intention to benefit the 1% at the expense of everyone else is exposed. So they use their money and propaganda machines to divide public worker from private worker, small business owners from working families, not to mention black from white, native born from immigrant, men from women.

The extremists want to con you into supporting their efforts to take money out of the state employees’ pockets and put it into theirs. Let them get away with it and your pockets will be emptied next. That’s because, for them, the easy profits have gone overseas. The next mother lode is in your paycheck.

We must speak truth to power. We fight for a state and a country which returns to its founding teachings that in a democracy power needs to be balanced. Checks and balances is what every American school child learns — Congress checks the President (and vice versa), and the Supreme Court checks them both, and democratic elections and the Bill of Rights are supposed to check the government. Who is checking the billionaires and multinational corporations and their anonymously funded propaganda machines?

What will our democracy look like if they eliminate all unions, and defined pensions, and any government powerful enough to challenge them? What will our chance be to rebuild the American dream where everyone able and willing to work can support their families, live a decent life, and enjoy a secure retirement? Ask yourself that, and you won’t let nonsense like the Yankee Institute’s most recent “study” distract you from the real fight to save American democracy.

Lori Pelletier is Executive Secretary Treasurer of the over 200,000-member Connecticut AFL-CIO.

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