Monday, March 12, 2007

Daylight Scam Time

I don't know about you, but I'm having more than a little trouble with this new three-week-early shift to Daylight Savings Time (DST). My atomic clock hasn't changed automatically, as it should. My computer hasn't changed either-- having been programmed in the days when DST occurred three weeks later into the Spring. And I know that if I change my computer clock manually, it will only advance automatically in three weeks, and I'll be off by an hour again. So far, I'm leaving things be.
Unfortunately, those who govern us can't, or won't let things be. The U.S. Congress, in its infinite wisdom, decided two years ago that giving us commoners more daylight to play in would be a wonderful gift: not only would we be able to stay out later at night, but the increased hours of daylight would save energy. There would be, experts assured us, less need for electricity in the evening hours. Those in attendance no doubt applauded, congratulating themselves, and America itself, for its practical genius.

Now, however, we learn the real facts behind this tinkering. It turns out that Australia has already tried this for a year or so, and experts there have found that the savings in energy are all smoke and mirrors. In fact, though there is some small reduction in electricity use because of the increased daylight in the evening, there is a corresponding increase in electricity usage in the morning hours, when people must rise in more darkness. Further, due to the increased light in the evening, people are out and about more, and hence use more fuel in their cars to get around.

So the energy savings are really a cover story for the real scam. That scam involves commerce. Shopping malls and other retail businesses have long been eager to increase the duration of DST because when there's more light after work, Americans are more likely to stop and shop on their way home. Three weeks at either end may mean billions in increased sales for the useless products retail businesses thrive on. Even more nefarious, among the biggest lobbies pushing for the new bill to increase DST were candy manufacturers. Why? Because the new DST hours will now encompass Halloween! This means that American Mommies will now be able to keep their little darlings out later in the increased light, which in turn will mean that homes will have to buy more candy to accommodate the increased number of trick-or-treaters coming to beg. Candy manufacturers stand to make a killing. And the fact that more candy in little hands will cause more sugar problems in a nation already reeling from epidemic sugar diabetes among children is, of course, beside the point.

Concern for the health of Americans seems to be beside the point for the U.S. Congress as well. In fact, this yielding by lawmakers to pressure from business lobbies, in defiance of any concerns about the health or well-being of their constituents, perfectly represents the sickness at the heart of American politics. Instead of casting votes based on what is good or healthy for the people they are paid to represent, American legislators increasingly vote on behalf of those with the money to finance their continuing election. In this case, the money lay in the hands of candy manufacturers and Chamber of Commerce types who represent shopping malls. In far too many other cases,the money sits in the hands of arms manufacturers and others in the military-industrial complex, or in the hands of polluters like coal-powered energy plants, massive oil companies, and their ilk. The result in almost all cases is a stench of self-serving and wealth-serving corruption emanating from the halls of Congress that now threatens to overwhelm even the sugared justifications of our well-fed lawmakers.

Of course, such a revolt would depend on a citizenry with a healthy nose for the stench of excrement, and in America, where the suppression and repression of odors has become an almost religious duty, any hope for the revival of such olfactory acuity might already be drowned beneath the sickly sweet smell of candy.

1 comment:

  1. Daylight Savings time never made a lot of sense to me. As a farmer's daughter, we had to get up early in the summer, and because of the extreme heat, had to stop work early afternoon. We didn't go back once it cooled off in the evenings. As an adult, and working for a corporation, it not only always threw my schedule, but it seemed like we were getting up in the middle of the night (and on the road with a long commute, getting children off to school, etc) ....who does this benefit, besides those who enjoy outdoor sports.