How to Protest - The Billionaires

A Little History on the Billionaires

First, let me explain that this particular group claims no party and no platform, other than what will be explained below.

They started during the Steve Forbes presidential campaign in 1999.They called themselves The Billionaires for Forbes.

After Forbes withdrew due to a lack of support, they reformed themselves during the 2000 presidential campaign, they called themselves The Billionaires for Bush (or Gore). The stated purpose of the protest was "...the message that whichever candidate became president, corporations and the wealthy were guaranteed to benefit. The group spoke out under the motto "Because Economic Inequality Is Not Growing Fast Enough"."

The next national event the group attended was when they arrived on scene for the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York. The police department called them "an activist group forged as a mockery of the current president and political policies."

In truth they mocked both parties equally.

And mockery is their forte. In fact I don't think there's been a "serious" protest performed by them since their formation. If they can't appropriate a popular tune and set lyrics to it in the form of parody they aren't performing at all.

And what are they lampooning?

The spending of money for pork-barrel projects, corporate profits, government subsidies, and other "handouts" that most of the rest of the citizenry can't expect.

Over the years they've changed their name to suit the latest issues. "Billionaires" is always part of the name, but depending on the issue at hand, the rest of the name fits the times. To date they have been called:

  • Billionaires for Forbes1
  • Billionaires for Bush (or Gore)
  • Billionaires for Bush
  • Billionaires for Wealthcare

Obviously, these are more "left-wing" than "right-wing" causes, but not always. At the forefront every time is the issue of taxpayer money and where it goes.

Their very first "protest" is a prime example of how they operate. In 1999 during Steve Forbes run for president the following took place.

They wore conservative jackets and ties (but no bowler hats, etc.) and carried innocuous signs such as "Run, Steve, Run." Happy to have grass-roots support, the Forbes handlers (who believed the Billionaires were students from a nearby business school) placed them in front of the cameras, very near to the podium from which Forbes was speaking. However, each of their signs had another sign behind it. And behind their banner (which read "Forbes 2000: He wants YOU to win") was another banner, waiting. At the most dramatic moment of his announcement, the Billionaires flipped their signs, and pulled away the large banner to reveal one which read: "Billionaires for Forbes: Because Inequality isn’t Growing Fast Enough." The Billionaires started chanting "Let workers pay the tax so investors can relax!" and other slogans. Forbes and his handlers were completely thrown off, a little tussle ensued, and the Billionaires were pushed off to the side away from the cameras. Not wanting to miss the action, half the TV crews left the Forbes speech to cover the Billionaires. The action got lots of coverage. - source Wikipedia, Billionaires for Bush article

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A "mashup" of Bush and Gore as one person. Monopoly Card parody
A "mashup" of Bush and Gore as one person.
A "mashup" of Bush and Gore as one person.
Monopoly Card parody
Monopoly Card parody

Issues

The Billionaires have also launched various campaigns. These include:

  • Million Billionaire March (2000)
  • Vigil for Corporate Welfare (2000)
  • An auction for corporate advertising rights to the Liberty Bell (2000)
  • Pro-War protests for Iraqi oil A.K.A. "Whose Oil; Our Oil." (2005)
  • Billionaires for Coal (see video)
  • Leave No Billionaire Behind
  • Corporations are People Too

Lately they've been targeting the Health Care Reform effort by dressing as Insurance company executives and singing the praises of profits.

Street Theater

Billionaires (for whatever the issue is) is really satirical street theater. They often dress in tuxedos & top-hats for the men and evening wear & pearls for the women. If they are lampooning corporations then the attire changes to business suits for the men and business attire for the women.

Member names include "Mo Bludfer Oyle", "Phil T Rich", "Millie O'Nair" and so on.

Regardless of dress the troupe's routine will always include protest signs (usually FOR the people they are lampooning), lots of fake money, and at least one parody song sung to a popular tune.

They are so well rehearsed in fact that a routine often takes on the aspect of a small Broadway show. (see video below)

The reason this works so well is no matter who is on what side of the aisle, the routines and music are so over the top, so entertaining, that just about everyone in the crowd ends up laughing and applauding the troupe.

Latest Effort - Health Care Reform

The Billionaire's (for whatever the issue is) are almost certain to be around for many years, if not decades, to come.

Their latest effort kicked off around the country where group members gathered around health insurance company headquarters, dressed as executives, and defended corporatism with renditions of "Profits Before People" and the "Battle Hymn of the Insurance Companies."

"Profits Before People" Lyrics

How dare you criticize this industry we're serving!
You dare accuse us of a monstrous crime!
We're only guilty of commitment that's unswerving:
To maximizing profits every time!

Profits before people:
It's the better business plan.
So we deny your coverage when we can.
We must preserve our way of life
from the approaching storm.
Yeah, that's why we've been crushing health reform!

Profits before people:
The Insurers' bottom line.
And up 'til now it's served us mighty fine.
'Cause jacking up your premiums
is how we're keeping warm.
Yeah that's why we've been crushing health reform!

We gotta stop the Public Option! (Or limit access to it!)
We gotta stop the Public Option! (Let the states opt out!)
We gotta stop the Public Option! (Just put a trigger on it!)
We gotta stop the Public Option!

Yeah, profits before people!
Profits before people!
Profits before people every time!
Oh yeah!

Lyrics by Felonius Ax
Minister of Musical Manipulation

Battle Hymn of the Insurance Companies Lyrics

Battle Hymn Of The Insurance Companies
(to the tune of "Battle Hymn Of The Republic")

Rejoice and let us glory in the profits we attain
By rationing the remedies for suffering and pain.
And no one's gonna mess with all our monetary gain.  
Let's save the status quo!

            Chorus:      

            If our health care corporation

            Never faces regulation,

            We'll be brimming with elation!

            Let's save the status quo!

We bought a bunch of senators and congresspeople too.

They serve our corporate interests and we tell them what to do.

This gravy train will stop the day a health care bill gets through.

Let's save the status quo!
Chorus: If our health care corporation (etc.)
Our PR team is crackerjack.  We're framing the debate!

We're spreading lots of lies and we're unleashing lots of hate.

We'll drive a stake into the bill the day it leaves the gate.

Let's save the status quo!
Chorus: If our health care corporation (etc.)


A decent public option is an option we won't bear.

And Medicare for everyone would kill our market share.

We'll never win the game if all the rules are just and fair.

Let's save the status quo!
Chorus: If our health care corporation (etc.)


In every other wealthy nation health care is a right.

But not here in America, no, not without a fight!

We're fighting for the right to monstrous profits day and night.

Let's save the status quo!
Chorus: If our health care corporation (etc.)


Lyric by Felonius Ax
Minister of Musical Manipulation

Infiltration

They even showed up at America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) annual meeting in Washington.

Amazingly, despite security, five performers and six videographers managed to "infiltrate" the meeting.

The video below is the result. Billionaires for Wealthcare singing "Public Option Annie."

Footnotes

1 Steve Forbes of course

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Comments 11 comments

LiamBean profile image

LiamBean 7 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia Author

salt: I was talking to one of the Billionaires after an event. I noted that it looked like John McCain was going down in defeat and I wanted to get a reaction. The reaction was "what about Obama?"

They don't demonize the right over the left. Many of them don't trust ANY politician regardless of party affiliation.


salt profile image

salt 7 years ago from australia

Please dont get me wrong, sometimes the system creates the monster and sometimes the players are the same - the left wants the right to be bad and the left can set things up to make things worse so then the right is the devil, when the left has had a hand in it too. Sometimes the left is the right in disguise or another form... Sometimes the people behind the scenes control both to create the outcome they want.. ummm ...Sometimes the right is bad, sometimes its a product of our own creation...Sometimes the left is wrong and just as bad regarding human rights .....and communism is always good for those at the top.. being at the bottom of any system can suck...think about it.. get back to me and enjoy life


Denno66 7 years ago

Isn't it cute how they can make something so blantantly wrong so dang funny! ;p


Vizey profile image

Vizey 7 years ago

Your satire about the Billonaire is nice. I enjoyed a lot it is funny.


LiamBean profile image

LiamBean 7 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia Author

Ralph: Thanks for reading.

I'm not sure.

I stumbled upon them at the Doo Dah Parade in Pasadena about nine years ago. I always attend the Rose Parade and it's antithesis the Doo Dah. I think at the time they were The Billionaires for Bush (or Gore), but couched, of course, in language that sounded like they supported either candidate as long as there was a profit in it.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago

Great stuff! I too wonder why I hadn't heard of the Billionaires. They are brilliant. Tnx.


jrb 7 years ago

Thanks for the article Liam!

I've been a member since 2000 and it's always fun!

I've learned that humor and satire are definitely the way to reach people, even the ones who disagree with you. Anger has it's place and function in protest, but laughter breaks down barriers, and reaches more people.


LiamBean profile image

LiamBean 7 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia Author

Thanks Patrice!

I've heard all sorts of protests, but few that were actually funny.


Patrice52 profile image

Patrice52 7 years ago

Wow! I never saw so much truth put out in such plain English. It would be funnier though if it weren't so true! GREAT HUB!


LiamBean profile image

LiamBean 7 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia Author

I think it's because between issues they just disappear and go back to their daily lives. They are DARNED funny though.


someonewhoknows profile image

someonewhoknows 7 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

My God! Why is it I never heard of any of this!If I didn't know better this all sounds like a satire on "The Billionaires" you might find on "Saturday Night live"

P.S. The African American looks like Louis Farekhan with those sunglasses on.

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