Rise and shine
On the problem of springing forward -- and why Standard Time is the better time
It has always been a misnomer to call it "Daylight Saving Time". Indeed, nothing is "saved" in either a real sense, nor in a metaphorical one. When money is saved in a bank, the saver is usually entitled to expect some form of interest on the deposit -- but no such interest payment has ever been forthcoming from DST. Nor could it be. It has always been a classic case of cost-shifting rather than actual savings; what we place on deposit when we "spring forward", we merely retrieve later in the year when we "fall back".
■ This shifting, though, is neither interest-bearing nor cost-free. Changing clocks twice a year is more than a mere nuisance; it sets off nearly everyone's routines twice a year. Dogs and babies especially have no regard for the arbitrary time that adults place on a clock. This makes the time shifting annoying and troublesome for more than a few American households.
■ But there are better and worse ways to resolve the problem. The "Sunshine Protection Act of 2021", approved by the United States Senate on March 15th and referred to the House, is the worse way. Standardizing time year-round so that we stop with the charade of "springing forward" and "falling back" is helpful. Choosing the advanced hour of Daylight Saving Time as our new permanent time is silly.
■ In northern states, the effect will be to make sunlight arrive much too late in the winter. In Des Moines, the sun rises at 7:22 am on December 1st...on standard time. That would be 8:22 am under the new law. (It's even a little later if you head 120 miles west to Omaha, or a few additional miles north to Minneapolis.)
■ And it's not just a problem in December. Even most of February would have a post-8:00 sunrise. It's not that 8:00 is particularly special, but if we take the idea of a "9-to-5" work schedule even halfway seriously, we ought to expect that people will generally be up at least an hour before the job.
■ And it's simply not good for our well-being to expect people to rise before the sun. Early birds might choose to do it, but we already get kids up too early for school, and making it so that they wake up in the dark for months on end surely can't be in their best interests, no matter how much adults might want more time to golf in the summertime.
■ Later winter sunrises aren't merely an aesthetic or even a psychological complaint. They mean more eastbound commuters driving with the Sun in their eyes, more children crossing streets and school parking lots in the dark, and more cold experienced virtually every morning.
■ Everything good done by Daylight Saving Time could also be done by shifting work to "summer hours", as many workplaces already do. The damage DST does in northern places can't be as easily remedied.
■ Eliminating the time shift is the right way to go. Doing it in a way that makes waking up in the wintertime even darker and drearier than it already is -- for months and months at a time, even for people who aren't early risers? That idea should remain in the dark.