. . . Monday November 15, 2004

X Mercks the Spot

It’s becoming more and more clear that Merck was well aware of the dangers presented by the regular use of their super-selling prescription drug Vioxx. That probably doesn’t surprise many people. For better or for worse, we expect companies like Merck to take their time with news that hurts the bottom line.

But Merck’s behavior surrounding Vioxx does provide an interesting reminder that corporate behavior and scandal was a major topic of discussion during the Bush term but was somehow completely absent during the election (other than Nader’s occasional rants).

Why was that the case?

You could argue that we had bigger issues to worry about such as terrorism and the war in Iraq. But there were plenty of issues that managed to bubble to the top of the agenda that were ultimately much less encompassing than corporate scandal (especially given that more than half of all Americans own stock). American history will show that Ken Lay was a whole lot bigger story than Mary Cheney. Political history will not.

The discussion of corporate behavior, in fact, would’ve provided a perfect opportunity for the Dems to push, dare I say it, values. But the values frame was never extended beyond the GOP’s definition of values. We spent thousands of hours on gay marriage and almost none on corporate scandal.

Think about this. We just re-elected an administration that had significant ties to the two most controversial corporate scandals or potential scandals of the last four years. Enron and Halliburton. Yet, neither came up all that much during the election.

Ultimately, Whitewater was a bigger political story than Enron and Halliburton combined. That’s a pretty neat trick, no?

The Dems got beat at the values game because they had no part in defining what we were talking about when talked about values.

Be the frame.

Concentration is important!