Mar 16, 2022

Daylight saving debate.

Daylight saving debate.

The Senate just passed a bill to make daylight saving time permanent.

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, ad-free, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”

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Today's read: 11 minutes.

We're covering the daylight saving debate. Plus, a question about how CNN could go back to "straight news."

Photo: wernerredlich / 702 images
Photo: wernerredlich / 702 images

We missed it.

Yesterday, I wrote about the return of earmarks (aka pork) in Congress. I generally took a positive outlook on them, but I'd like to make it more positive now. One of the things I was critical about was that there wasn't enough transparency in who requested what, something that was promised by Democrats. This was repeated in articles we cited here and here. Even in a pretty positive piece on earmarks, The Washington Post did a whole section on transparency but pointed to things like social media videos from members of Congress.

Well, it turns out there was more transparency than anybody is really saying. The House appropriations committee and the Senate appropriations committee put together exactly what I was looking for: Two entire web pages describing who got what earmarked. I was easily able to find a letter from my representative on what she requested for my district in Brooklyn.

I know this because a reader in appropriations sent me a (justifiably) frustrated email about the work that went into creating these pages, only to watch everyone seemingly miss them. I’ve published the email in full here. I certainly would have loved to know about these resources, rather than doing what I did, which was sift through hundreds of pages of a bill and dozens of local stories while asking my newest intern to spend a whole morning finding examples.

Given that I was generally pro-earmarks yesterday, this doesn't really change my take. But I was pretty shocked to see that the very thing I wanted was out there and I just couldn't find it.


Friday.

In this week's subscribers-only edition, we're going to be covering the debate over gas prices: Can presidents really move the needle? What causes prices to rise and fall? Who is responsible for what is happening now? This is one of the most frequently asked questions we get at Tangle — so we're going to dive in.


Quick hits.

  1. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed Congress this morning, invoking Pearl Harbor and pleading with President Biden to institute a "no-fly" zone and be the leader of the world. Meanwhile, negotiators say peace talks between Russia and Ukraine are becoming "more realistic." (The plea)
  2. The Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates today for the first time since 2018. (The hike)
  3. Military prosecutors are negotiating a plea bargain with the men accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11 attacks. The deal would allow the defendants to admit guilt but forgo a death sentence. (The negotiations)
  4. China extended its lockdown to the entire province of Jilin, which covers 24 million residents, as the Omicron variant of Covid-19 continues to spread. (The spread)
  5. Sarah Bloom Raskin withdrew her nomination to be the Fed's top banking regulator after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) signaled he would vote against her. (The withdrawal)
  6. BREAKING: A powerful 7.3-magnitude earthquake jolted eastern Japan late Wednesday night, leading to tsunami warnings across the country. (The quake)

Today's topic.

Daylight saving. Yesterday, the U.S. Senate passed legislation that would make daylight saving time (the current time we're in) permanent beginning in 2023, ending the twice-annual changing of clocks to promote "brighter afternoons and more economic activity," as Reuters put it. The legislation still needs to pass in the House, and then get Biden's signature to become law, but its odds are looking better than ever. The bill is dubbed the "Sunshine Protection Act." The White House has not yet indicated whether Biden will sign it.

Right now, the bill has bipartisan backing from Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. "You'll see it's an eclectic collection of members of the United States Senate in favor of what we've just done here in the Senate, and that's to pass a bill to make Daylight Saving Time permanent," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said on the Senate floor. "Just this past weekend, we all went through that biannual ritual of changing the clock back and forth and the disruption that comes with it. And one has to ask themselves after a while why do we keep doing it?"

The use of daylight saving has been in place in most of the U.S. since the 1960s, though it was first tried in 1918. It's actually a myth that daylight saving time was used to extend time for farmers — it was mostly about conserving electricity. Year-round daylight saving was adopted in 1973 because of an oil embargo (as an attempt to use less energy) but repealed a year later. The experiment continued into 1974, but as the winter wore on, and mornings remained darker for longer, support for the change dwindled.

Today, Arizona and Hawaii remain in standard time year round, and dozens of other states have adopted bills to move to daylight saving time year round — but they can't do it without congressional approval.

Supporters of the measure point to studies that have shown car crashes, heart attacks and strokes increase after the time changes. Some also argue the change would cause less seasonal depression and help businesses like golf courses, which could operate longer with more hours of daylight. Others say making standard time permanent instead would be a healthier option because it exposes people to more light in the morning and less in the evening, which cuts back on sleep deprivation. Most polls show that about 65% to 71% of Americans support making one time permanent, though they are split on which one: In 2019 and 2021, The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that about 40 percent of Americans want year-round standard time while about a third want permanent daylight saving time.

Below, we're going to take a look at the arguments for and against this change — then my take.


For the change...

  • Those supporting the change point to everything from the disruption of switching our clocks to concerns about people’s sleep and health.
  • Others say the economic benefits would be numerous.
  • Many argue that switching our clocks back and forth is a dated practice.

Sens. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), who sponsored the bill, wrote about why in CNN.

"Stolen evening sunlight can also negatively impact mental health," they wrote. "The effects of darker afternoons on our mental and physical health can be serious. The biannual transition of "spring forward" and "fall back" disrupts circadian sleeping patterns, causing confusion, sleep disturbances and even an elevated risk to heart health. A Danish study found hospitals see an 11% uptick in patients with symptoms of depression immediately following the switch from sunnier daylight saving time to the darker standard time in the fall. By making our days brighter year-round, we can also permanently speed up the clock on seasonal depression triggered by the dark days of winter.

"Furthermore, extra sunshine in the evenings can give our economy a boost, with consumer spending up 3.5% when we have more daylight in the evenings, according to the same study in Denmark," they said. "And beyond the statistics, there's the simple truth that we all like more sunshine. Evening daylight hours mean more of the day to enjoy after work and allows our kids more time to play after school... It's really straightforward: Cutting back on the sun during the fall and winter is a drain on the American people and does little to nothing to help them. It's time we retire this tired tradition. Tell your senators to lighten up and back our Sunshine Protection Act."

In The Washington Post, Helaine Olen said "spring ahead — and stay there."

"To an extent, we might thank covid-19 for helping to clarify preferences for late-afternoon sunshine," Olen said. "When pandemic lockdowns reset schedules far and wide, a clear favorite emerged. During homebound periods in 2020, when the boundaries between workdays and weekends blurred, students and workers alike slept later in the morning and stayed up longer at night — a schedule that resembles the later-day start of daylight saving time.

"One study, commissioned by mattress manufacturer Leesa Sleep, found that almost half of remote workers didn’t get out of bed till 10 minutes before they needed to report to their at-home workstation," Olen added. "Meanwhile, electricity use noticeably fell between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., leaving experts to theorize that people headed outdoors to bask in the daylight. These data points not only suggest why so many workers aren’t interested in resuming their daily commute, but also help explain why political momentum is with the group that wants to spring forward this March — and not fall back months later."

In Townhall, Jeff Crouere said the time for switching our clocks is long gone.

"Fortunately, there is finally some hope there will be action by congress," Crouere said. "A bipartisan group of eight U.S. Senators have introduced the 'Sunshine Protection Act of 2021.' This legislation will end the twice-yearly clock changing practices and make daylight-saving time permanent. One of the sponsors of the legislation, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), complained that ‘I prefer Daylight Savings over Standard but in the end what I really want is to end this stupid twice a year time shift.’

"Senator Rubio is right; the time shift is 'stupid' and needs to end," he added. "To promote his legislation, Senator Rubio’s office issued a press release highlighting some of the reasons why our country should make daylight-saving time permanent. The potential positive effects include reducing childhood obesity, benefitting the agricultural economy, and reducing energy usage. With bipartisan support, the legislation can pass, and we can end the madness."


Against the change...

  • Those against the change say we've tried this before, and people hated it.
  • They note that it would make mornings much, much darker.
  • Some argue switching to permanent standard time is a better option than permanent daylight saving time.

Last year, Josh Barro wrote that we already tried permanent daylight saving time — and people hated it.

“I don't just mean that having an extra hour of sunlight in the evening will be great — the sun will set in Manhattan at 7:02 pm on Sunday, late enough to enjoy a COVID-safe outdoor dinner in the twilight — but the practice of changing our clocks back and forth each year is itself great. As I wrote three years ago, our current time policy is great — notwithstanding the whining we see annually on Twitter and even from some lawmakers — because it helps us coordinate society so more people are able to wake up shortly after sunrise for more of the year. This leaves daylight hours available after school and work to the extent that is possible at a time of year based on the earth's axial tilt.

“And it's great because all the other options are worse. Under [the Sunshine Protection Act] proposal, the sun would rise on December 21 at 8:17 am in Manhattan. In Detroit, the sun would not rise until 8:58 am. In Grand Rapids, 9:11 am. I understand that a lot of people already start their days when it's dark out, but this policy would force many, many more people to do so, for weeks or even months of the year, depending on what they do and where they are located... Less than nine months after the US adopted year-round daylight saving [in 1974], the House voted 383 to 16 to repeal it. 383 to 16!... Of course, nobody really thinks changing the clocks ruins their life. It's a minor inconvenience. But people love to complain. It's fun! Daylight-saving time provides a nice, low-stakes opportunity to complain, and people love that.”

In Slate, Jim Newell suggested scratching the surface a bit more.

"The thing about moving to daylight saving time permanently, however, is that it does not actually create more sunlight," Newell said. "It would get dark an hour later in winter, sure. But it would also be very dark when people are waking up and going to work and school. In D.C., for example, sunrise under daylight saving time on Dec. 21 would be 8:23 a.m. It would be worse the farther west one is in a time zone. In Cleveland, the sunrise would be at 8:50 a.m. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, 9:11 a.m.

"And there’s good evidence to believe that people might not like a change to permanent DST once it’s implemented… the United States did this exact thing, and people hated it," Newell added. "Shortly after it was implemented in 1974, though, people started going to work and school in the dark and polling support collapsed. It screwed up circadian rhythms! Everyone was losing it! It didn’t help with energy costs either. So the experiment wasn’t renewed. Have times changed? Sure. Much fewer kids are walking to school now, so there is less immediate safety concern about sending them out into dark streets in the morning. That, however, does not solve the problem of people being miserable and confused if they’ve been up for a couple of hours in the dark.”

In The New York Times, Amelia Nierenberg explained the case for permanent standard time, not permanent daylight saving time.

"Several coalitions of scientists, including the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, on the other hand, argue that standard time (with its brighter mornings) is more naturally aligned with the progression of the sun, and therefore with the body’s natural clock," Nierenberg wrote. "However the studies in favor of this argument similarly do not prove cause and effect. Scientists say that a permanent switch to daylight saving time might throw people’s circadian rhythms out of whack, leading to unintended health consequences.

"Bright mornings help people wake up and stay alert; dark nights allow for the production of melatonin, the hormone that triggers sleep," she added. "When it’s too light at night, it can be hard to fall asleep. When it’s too dark in the morning, it can be hard to wake up. Together, both circumstances could lead to sleep deprivation. One 2019 study, which looked at how light affects people at opposite ends of a single time zone, found that an extra hour of natural light in the evening led to an average of 19 fewer minutes of sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to a range of health conditions, like obesity, heart disease and diabetes."


My take.

I can't tell if this is one of the silliest debates ever taken up by Congress or — low key — one of the most important potential changes to daily life in America that Congress has explored in some time.

I'm not a sleep scientist, energy economist or cardiologist, so I'm mostly blowing smoke pretending to know what's what. But what I can do, like most Americans, is share my own direct experience. And this bill is so well-timed (kudos to Rubio and Markey, smart politics) that it's top of mind for me on the tail of the change.

This whole week I've been a mess. Seriously. My wife makes fun of me for having a "militant" bedtime routine. Before 10:00 p.m. I need to be in bed reading, which I do literally until I start to fall asleep. I do this so I can get up promptly at 6 a.m. every day to either hit the gym or jump into work. This week, though, I have been having trouble falling asleep — watching the clock pass 11 p.m. — and even more trouble getting up. Today, I wasn't out of bed until after 7:30 a.m. I know we're only three days into the change, but there's no doubt it is disruptive, annoying, and makes me feel awful. For someone who tries to tie their sleep schedule to things like daylight, the change makes me feel tired and agitated.

So it was affirming to read all these experts talk about how later daylight disrupts sleep, and darker mornings make it harder to get going. I've felt that, acutely, these last few days.

At the same time, though, leaving work at 6 or 6:30 and having another hour of sunlight has been a joy. Yesterday, in New York, it was actually kind of warm when I walked home from the office. It's hard to put a price on that, and the result was that I actually got outside to sit on my front steps and watch the world go by for a few minutes. Definitely a nice change.

After reading all these arguments, though, I think I ultimately land in the place where what we have is both annoying and terrible but also probably better than the alternatives. Josh Barro's piece basically put me over the top: If we went permanent standard time, we'd be getting sunrise in Manhattan at 4:25 a.m. in June. Bleh. If we go to permanent daylight saving time, the sun wouldn't come up until after 8:00 a.m. in the winter. Bleh. If we keep what we have, we avoid the worst of both worlds and deal with this miserable week once a year (falling back is always a lot easier).

Do I love it? No. Is the cynic in me shouting that Congress may finally agree on something and it's a change that actually isn't all that great? Yup. Am I curious to just try permanent daylight saving for a year and see how it goes? Definitely. But my inclination, right now, is that the system we have is the best option — even if I'm writing this week with a foggy brain and tired eyes.

What do you think? Take this poll and let us know. We'll share the results tomorrow!


Your questions, answered.

Q: I just read that Chris Licht would like to refocus CNN on "hard news" and move away from political talking points. Given your mission, I was wondering how you would go about this if you were in his shoes? An assumption I'm making is that it would have to fit into the confines of maintaining ratings given the nature of the medium.

— Bill, Wayne, NJ

Tangle: I think it's going to be really tough. Maybe impossible. CNN's business model has now fallen into the trap of partisan warfare, and as far as I can tell it gets its best ratings when it’s feeding its viewers what they now want: anti-Trump content. I don't know how you get past that, and I'm not sure how CNN will even operate (or what their editorial direction will look like) once Trump fades from politics.

That being said, I could certainly say what I'd do: I'd lean into international news. For all the legitimate criticisms of CNN, its coverage abroad has always been stellar — perhaps the best in the business. From Anderson Cooper on the ground in the wake of natural disasters to any number of the amazing war reporters and foreign correspondents, CNN has for a long time brought stories and images into American homes that you can't really find from other news organizations (except for Fox News, who, by the way, tragically lost a veteran cameraman and a contracted Ukrainian reporter after their vehicle came under fire this week).

Basically: CNN's superpower is on-the-ground, breaking news coverage around major events across the world. So I'd make that the focus and get out of the thunderdome punditry game. I don’t know if it would work financially. But if Licht is sincere about abandoning what they do now, that strikes me as the best path forward.

Want to ask a question? You can reply to this email and write in (it goes straight to my inbox) or fill out this form.


A story that matters.

One of the major issues heading into the 2022 midterms is violent crime. For months, Republicans have been hammering Democrats over the rise in homicides that has taken place under President Biden in the wake of a wave of social justice, anti-police protests that took place in 2020. Now, the Democratic think tank Third Way is out with a new, provocative counter-narrative: "The Red State Murder Problem." Third Way notes that eight out of the top 10 murder rates (per capita) are in states that voted for Trump in 2020. In the 25 states that voted for Biden, the murder rate was 5.78 per 100,000 residents. In the 25 states that voted for Trump, it was 8.20 per 100,000 residents. This is an early preview of the Democratic counter-narrative on crime that might be coming as we head into 2022, a debate that could be a critical part of local and Congressional races across the country. You can read the report here.


Numbers.

  • 5:48 a.m. The time of sunrise in Washington D.C. on September 15 right now.
  • 6:48 a.m. The time of sunrise in Washington D.C. on September 15 if we switch to permanent daylight saving time.
  • 6:51 a.m. The time of sunrise in Washington D.C. on November 15 right now.
  • 7:51 a.m. The time of sunrise in Washington D.C. on November 15 if we switch to permanent daylight saving time.
  • 24%. The rate at which heart attacks spike in the days following "spring forward" in March, according to a 2014 study from University of Michigan.
  • 5.4 million. The number of people who applied for small-business licenses last year — a 53% jump from 2019, pre-pandemic.

Have a nice day.

A Russian state television employee just risked her freedom to warn Russians about the war happening in Ukraine. On Monday, she ran out behind the anchorwoman during the evening news on Russia's state television Channel 1, holding up a sign warning viewers "Don't believe propaganda. Here they're lying to you. Russians against war." The woman was identified as TV editor Marina Ovsiannikova. Her protest is likely to cost her her freedom: Thousands of anti-war protesters have been put in prison in Russia, and the Russian general prosecutor's office is allegedly reporting the incident. Vice has the story.

Screenshot from the live broadcast
Screenshot from the live broadcast

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Isaac Saul
I'm a politics reporter who grew up in Bucks County, PA — one of the most politically divided counties in America. I'm trying to fix the way we consume political news.

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