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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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We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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