A politician shouldn't be relieved of his responsibility to explain his actions just because he's riding on someone else's bandwagon.
West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw jumped on another slow rolling one this week, suing mortgage lender Countrywide for loaning too much money to people who couldn't pay it back.
That's right -- Countrywide has lost and still is losing big money on these bad loans. But seen through McGraw's grievance goggles, the real victims are delinquent West Virginia borrowers, often being those neighbors of yours who bought bigger, snazzier houses than they could afford.
It goes without saying that McGraw didn't dream up this creation of victimization. His copycat lawsuit is virtually identical to ones previously filed by attorneys general in California, Illinois, Florida and Connecticut.
The suits are virtually identical in their scope, substance and political opportunism.
According to McGraw's complaint, Countrywide should immediately stop foreclosing on loans of those borrowers who have stopped paying their mortgages. In addition, those victim-borrowers deserve "restitution" for biting off more than they could chew, McGraw charges.
Suddenly in West Virginia, the basic tenets of capitalism have become grievances worth suing over. This a dangerous precedent to even consider.
It is expected that a self-serving, populist ham like McGraw would take on any business enemy he could find in the short-term. He's on the ballot in November, so Countrywide fits the bill, even though West Virginia has one of the lowest foreclosure rates in the U.S.
But long-term, this brand of mindless populism could devastate our housing market.
If a home lender is unable to foreclose on the bad loans, will there be a single lender making home loans in West Virginia?
Then there's the moral hazard it seeks to endorse: wouldn't we all have borrowed more if we knew we'd get "restitution" if we couldn't pay it back?
Countrywide's future notwithstanding, McGraw's actions portend to severely limit local access to home loans for all buyers. That would mean greatly reduced home equity for current homeowners in a dried up housing market that could last for years.
The lesson here: threats aren't idle when they're coming from the state's chief legal officer. And those threats have consequences for the rest of us, some of which will prove far worse than they immediately appear.
The mortgage bashing bandwagon has been fun for politicians, though it's the rest of us who are destined for a wild ride.