MotherJones MA95: Nice Work If You Can Get It

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A 1960s counterculture poster reads, “Perhaps the great day will come when we’ll have enough money for our schools and the Air Force will hold bake sales to pay for its bombers.” Don’t hold your breath. While federal support for all arts education, including music, is less than $21 million annually for kindergarten through high school, $193 million of taxpayer money is spent on military bands. The Pentagon is, in fact, the largest employer of musicians in the world, with more than 8,000 on the payroll from here to Panama to Italy to Guam. The four service branches and the Coast Guard spend $25 million more than the entire budget for the National Endowment for the Arts. Premier bands, such as the U.S. Marine Band and the Coast Guard Band, tend to have the best musicians, largest budgets, and nicest perks; band members’ only duty consists of rehearsals, performances, and travel time, so they often moonlight as music teachers or perform in civilian bands and orchestras. Military officials correctly point out that the band budget has been decreasing since 1991. But Lt. Col. Virginia Allen, bands officer for the army, puts the reduction in perspective by noting that no army musician has been handed a pink slip. “Army bands are alive and well,” says Allen. “We’re still hiring. Job security is going to continue to be good.”

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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