Neil Young is on tour for his new studio album The Monsanto Years. He has invited 12 non-profits to join him to raise awareness about the corporate takeover of farming and the food supply, environmental degradation and GMO labeling issues like the one Vermont is currently fighting.
Move to Amend is one of the non-profits that will be touring with Young through Colorado, Nebraska, Ohio, New York, Michigan, New Jersey, Vermont and Massachusetts. Move to Amend is a coalition of organizations that are "committed to social and economic justice, ending corporate rule, and building a vibrant democracy that is genuinely accountable to the people, not corporate interests." Move to Amend has been fighting against corporate personhood, which has led to unprecedented corruption and threatens to completely eliminate the power of the people. Corporate personhood gives corporations some of the same legal rights as individuals, and in this way, corporate executives and owners can now flood political campaigns with their unbridled wealth, swaying important political decisions in favor of their own interests.
To give you an idea of how corporations can now sway the vote, look at the example of I-522, Washington's attempt at passing a GMO labeling initiative in 2013. Approximately 13,000 donors supported the initiative of passing a GMO labeling law, and their average donation was $25; the total money raised by supporters was $6.2 million. Comparatively, the campaign against GMO labeling had only 10 major donors, who donated an average of $545,827 a piece, and their total money raised was $17.2 million – nearly three times the amount of the supporters – but they were only 10 against 10,000. The GMO labeling initiative lost, and the 10 corporate-interest-backed donors got their way, while the 13,000 supporters were left to figure out another way to pass a law that was in the interest of the people, not the chemical corporations.
Now, Move to Amend has a mission to make an amendment to the Constitution which would overturn the Citizens United decision. "We are calling for an amendment to the US Constitution to unequivocally state that inalienable rights belong to human beings only, and that money is not a form of protected free speech under the First Amendment and can be regulated in political campaigns." In Washington state, Initiative 735 is currently collecting signatures to try to get the state to pressure Congress to pass a Constitutional Amendment changing the rights of corporations.
The enormous sway that corporations now have in political campaigns simply reflects what is already happening in a country that is facing the most serious income inequality gap on record. This is not the opinion of a single party but is entirely based on the facts that we have – ever since the Great Recession, wealth has increasingly been concentrated at the top, eroding the wealth held by the lower and middle classes at the bottom. Just as the majority of the people in America can no longer participate in accumulating real wealth and retirement as they were able to in the past, the majority of voters are also being pushed out of the political process when the elections are bought by a few wealthy donors.
These are the serious non-partisan issues facing our country's economic and political landscape. They are issues that have been discussed by politicians and activists on both sides of the debate, and they will continue to be problems until a solution is reached that will support the majority, not the wealthy minority. The democracy of the United States is quickly eroding and devolving into an oligarchy, which is defined as a small group of "people" (Monsanto, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and, yes, even the Walt Disney Company, who, with McDonald's and others, bought the largest Tyrannosaurus rex in history by outbidding the small group of scientists who discovered it!) who have control of a country. A recent study about American politics, elites, interest groups and average citizens has summed up the problem succinctly: "[O]ur analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America's claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened."
Non-profit groups and activists are responding to these issues by trying to get the American public to vote and demand change in their interests. This is one reason why Neil Young has dedicated his tour to bringing activist groups to the audience. The non-profit groups will inform the public about issues facing their community and their country and how the individual can participate in fighting back against corporate greed.
At each show, the invited local, national and global activist groups will set up booths that will give information about their cause. The village participants who are touring with Neil Young include the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Greenhorns, The California Grange, Center for Biological Diversity, Sea Shepherd, Institute for Responsible Technology, GMO Free USA, Idle No More, Move to Amend, The Beehive Design Collective, 350.org, Rising Tide and a News You Can Trust Tent.