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
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.
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
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."
1 Steve Forbes of course