Column: Supreme Court should leave Daylight Savings Time aloneDULUTH — April is a month that sees a flurry of activity at the Supreme Court as the justices race to hear cases before the term’s end in June. This year is no exception, with oral arguments last week in the Affordable Care Act case. Hidden in the plaintiffs’ pleadings, however, is a far more serious matter.
By: Robin Washington, Duluth News Tribune, Worthington Daily Globe
DULUTH — April is a month that sees a flurry of activity at the Supreme Court as the justices race to hear cases before the term’s end in June. This year is no exception, with oral arguments last week in the Affordable Care Act case.
Hidden in the plaintiffs’ pleadings, however, is a far more serious matter. Included are passages stating:
“In enacting the individual mandate, Congress was limited to regulating a single industry at a single point in time…” (italics mine) and,
“Congress cannot constitutionally regulate … that single moment,” concluding:
“If the Commerce Clause affords Congress the power to conscript the unwilling uninsured to … buy insurance, then Congress could also conscript any American to buy any private product at a time and under circumstances not of his own choosing.”
Putting aside the health insurance argument for a moment, the plaintiffs’ citation of a time not of our own choosing reveals what must be their true intent: to repeal daylight saving time.
The argument has some validity: We did not choose to spring our clocks forward on March 11; we did so in accordance with a government mandate. Yet to remedy the act by scuttling it, necessitating an unscheduled falling back in early summer, just as the days are at their longest, is a cure far more Draconian than the ailment.
Daylight saving time was established under the Calder Act of 1918, named not for the artist but a New York senator who saw it promptly repealed and left up to the states to comply or not. It was reinstituted in 1966, except in Arizona, Hawaii, and parts of Indiana that we’d forget about if they didn’t buy our iron ore. In a similar vein, that of government-mandated time zones, Canada, being conspicuously uncooperative with the more orderly countries of the hemisphere, insists on placing Maritime Newfoundland in its own time zone just a half-hour removed from its neighbors. During daylight saving time and with a slow watch, it can be off by an hour and 24 minutes or so.
In our region, such shenanigans mean little, with the troubling exception of Isle Royale, a parcel of Minnesota stolen by Michigan, which the Thievery State holds captive within the Eastern Time Zone even though it’s longitudinally west of Central Time stalwarts like Chicago and Nashville.
And there’s the problem. At the falling-back, there is a particular danger if, say, you should journey by floatplane from Isle Royale to the mainland in Minnesota (italics proudly mine) at 2 a.m. the morning of the change. You would then find yourself arriving nearly an hour before you left, giving you time to return and meet yourself not having left yet — and susceptible to the later you talking the earlier you out of making the trip!
It’s bad enough this possibility exists once a year (or twice, depending on which way you’re going and if you’re Benjamin Button), but for the court to reverse the time-honored practice would be nothing less than an assault on at least half of the space-time continuum, if not its entirety.
This is not the first time time has reached the high court. Most famously, in Brown v. Board of Education, the unanimous Warren Court wrote definitively, “We cannot turn the clock back,” seeming to end the discussion once and for all. However, just as the subordinate matter in that case, segregation, was only remedied nebulously “with all deliberate speed,” the court could not enforce the march of time.
It is impossible to predict how the justices will vote, though there is one clue: in the Jane Chord — the juxtaposition of the first word of their questions at oral arguments with the last — which, when done with a book, poem, or even a newspaper column, is said to reveal the essence of the work. For example, the Jane Chord of Shakespeare’s “King Lear” is “I long.” For “Pulp Fiction,” it’s “No idea.”
Likewise, in a long and somewhat rambling passage about the gross domestic product during the health-care case questioning, Justice Stephen Breyer begins with the word (contraction, really) “I’ll” and ends with “not” — or “I’ll not,” meaning, of course, the liberal Breyer would never vote to reverse his beloved Obamacare.
Nevertheless, the worry is real and the potential for harm great, leaving us, like Maritime Provincials or travelers from Isle Royale, hopelessly stuck in time. The court’s consideration of this issue is something we must take seriously. If we do not, we all are surely fools.
Robin Washington is editor of the Duluth News Tribune. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.