In case you are wondering, yes, Daylight Savings Time is earlier than you remember. 

We used to spring ahead in April and fall back in October, but now Daylight Savings Time is the second weekend of March and the first weekend in November.



In 2005, Congress extended Daylight Savings Time to save energy. It’s part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005If the sun is out later, you don’t have to turn lights on. Yes, Congress can legislate the sun–for you.

That’s very thoughtful.

But the people had questions.

“But can’t farmers tell time and just stop making hay when the sun doesn’t shine?” one thoughtful constituent was reported to have asked. We don’t want to overwork our elected officials. 

“But what about the people who get up early? Won’t they turn on lights earlier and ruin the savings?” asked another.  

Can’t you just ban alarm clocks, jobs that start before 10AM, or write up a bill requiring people to sleep in?” The questions kept pouring in, requiring another study that should be released sometime after midterm elections, I’m told. 

What does the change in Daylight Saving Time really do?

From where I sit, it does this:

  • It makes kids and dogs get up at the buttcrack of dawn in the fall and refuse to wake up for school in the spring.
  • Young children don’t go to bed for the rest of the school year because “the sun is still out.” They’re overtired. This lowers testing scores to crisis levels. Congress will probably have to take more time creating international vouchers to send kids to Finland so they can learn how to ace tests without winter sunlight like the Finnish kids do.
  • Changing Daylight Savings Time increases unemployment. Employees forget to show up for work and get fired. This costs the economy money. It’s super funny when people are an hour early in the fall, but when they no-show in the spring, heads roll.
  • It makes people miss their planes and trains, especially farmers, who have been used to springing forward and falling back in April and October since the times of Benjamin Franklin.
  • It forces reporters to write articles about Daylight Savings Time when they should be doing important things like retweeting the President or making up news.
  • Finally, it costs everyone who has to change global schedules around so people can watch the World Cup or catch connecting flights.

Stop complaining… It’s a good thing.

Did you know before railroads, the United States didn’t have a common time at all? Each city and town set its own official time. That meant it could be 3:30 in San Francisco and 3:45 in LA at the same exact time. How can you run the Oscars or get your masseuse in on time like that?

It was when one too many politicians missed their trains going from voting twice in Chicago to meetings at Tammany Hall that they knew it was time for serious action.

In 1869, Saratoga Springs teacher Charles Dowd posed the problem of standardized time to his students, asking them what the focal point of standardizing time should be. Dowd suggested they consider the first rule of solving any problem–follow the money.

In 1869, the money was on trains, as the intercontinental railroad connected the nation.

Dowd and his all-girl roster set about simplifying the eighty plus timetables New England railways used to figure what time lunch should be in each city. He proposed one time zone centered around Washington DC. Locals could still use their time but the trains would run on railway time.

This was taken straight out of the British 1847 playbook which organized time around the prime meridian in Greenwich.

Britain is the size of Oregon, however, and if the Queen gets her tea five minutes late the world will be no worse for wear. A one-zone United States puts the sun to bed at strange times for West Coasters.

Still, standardizing time seemed like a good idea, and the railways were listening. After discussion about creating a few time zones and moving the key US meridian from Washington (home of politics) to New York (home of industrial and railway millionaires)…the idea was promptly forgotten.

Maybe the railroad officials realized Dowd was an all-girls schoolteacher, and as usual when teachers try to influence policy, bureaucracy wins.

Next, railroad engineer, Sanford Fleming presented a similar idea except he wanted time standardized internationally. William Allen, engineer and editor of  The Official Guide to the Railways latched onto Fleming’s idea. Standard time wasn’t only good for commerce and people like Allen who had to update the guides before computers, but for scientists and the military as well.

After all, the North had moved troops in decisive battles during the Civil War–wouldn’t it be a shame if an entire regiment showed up an hour late for the next war?

In 1883, Standard Time was born.

Not to let the credit go to robber barons and railroad engineers, Congress officially passed the Standard Time Act of 1918 (the Calder Act) which enacted Daylight Savings Time, though DST was repealed a year later.

Daylight Savings Time has been enacted, repealed, and reenacted, and changed several times since, especially during wartime “to conserve energy.” Congress passed year-round daylight savings time from 1974 to 1975 in response to the OPEC oil embargo. President Nixon promised it would save tons of energy. 

Studies haven’t shown that to be true, but we do like to stay out later and have fun. 

So, if farmers can tell time, iPhone calendars can factor in time differences, and there is no real energy savings, why is it still around?

Shopping, says NPR.

Candymakers wanted Halloween covered under the auspices of Daylight Savings Time as Congress considered the 2005 bill. According to the National Retail Federation, America spends 8 billion dollars on Halloween. Surely a few of those dollars would be worthwhile putting pumpkins on the seats of Congressmen?

(That really happened.)

Even if you’re not a sugar freak, if it’s light out, you’ll be out later. And if you’re out later, you just may go to the mall.

And so, just like in the 1860’s, if you follow the money, you can usually find a good reason for anything, even losing an hour of sleep this weekend. 

So I’m asking you, please respect the time your Congress puts into making this day productive for you, the voter. Don’t forget to go shopping today with your extra daylight.

You can buy bread and milk and shovels, because I hear New England’s about to get its next winter storm.  

The farmers will have to make hay next week.

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