Senate’s Blanche Lincoln is no modern version of Honest Abe

Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., is the most endangered incumbent in the Senate. Given her destructive lurch into the lowest form of populism last weekend, she deserves to be tossed out in 47 weeks — and by a wide margin.

Many centrists in both parties had hoped that Lincoln would be part of the coalition of Democrats — including Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn. — who would insist on a much pared-down, focused set of health care reforms backed by a real threat of filibuster.

Instead, Lincoln lurched left and sponsored one of the most destructive provisions in a bill full of assaults on free markets generally, and the elderly and doctors specifically.

Lincoln authored an amendment targeting the compensation paid to insurance company executives. Her brainstorm — with its roots in the AIG bonus smashup of the spring and in every soak-the-rich scheme the country has ever heard pitched — would penalize insurance companies paying salaries of more than $400,000 if those companies generated threshold revenue from premiums generated by the health care bill’s new mandate to purchase coverage.

“This is a fair policy aimed at encouraging health insurance executives to put premium dollars toward lower rates and more affordable coverage, not in the pocketbooks of their executives,” Lincoln said.

Her prescription will quickly drive the best executive talent out of the insurance business. When you designate and punish a whipping boy, those folks head for the exits. Lincoln’s amendment has designated new enemies of the state, and it doesn’t take a Ph.D to realize that health insurance executives are the new Big Tobacco.

Lincoln has looked at her plummeting poll numbers and decided that class envy is her only possible strategy. This is a remarkably bad reading of the numbers, and whomever is masquerading as her pollster has sold her on some deep magic not obvious to mere mortals.

According to a Rasmussen poll published last week, Lincoln trails all four of her announced GOP opponents, including the Republican front-runner, state Sen. Gilbert Baker, whom she trails 47 to 41 percent.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., appear to have Lincoln on their strings and, while these puppeteers would like for her to keep her job, that’s not their priority. Lincoln is expendable, though she apparently hasn’t figured that out.

Lincoln’s “kill the beast” pitchfork appeal against insurance executives is the sort of Huey Long rhetoric that wouldn’t have worked even in the depths of the Great Depression, much less in an era when the vast majority of the insured like their coverage and don’t spend their days in bitter hating of the relatively few executives at the top of the insurance industry.

Examiner columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at www.HughHewitt.com

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