Wednesday, July 2, 2008

There Goes the Neighborhood

Barack Obama got a 0.315% discount on his mortgage from the Northern Trust.

Shortly after joining the U.S. Senate and while enjoying a surge in income, Barack Obama bought a $1.65 million restored Georgian mansion in an upscale Chicago neighborhood. To finance the purchase, he secured a $1.32 million loan from Northern Trust in Illinois.

The freshman Democratic senator received a discount. He locked in an interest rate of 5.625 percent on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, below the average for such loans at the time in Chicago. The loan was unusually large, known in banker lingo as a “super super jumbo.” Obama paid no origination fee or discount points, as some consumers do to reduce their interest rates.

Compared with the average terms offered at the time in Chicago, Obama’s rate could have saved him more than $300 per month.

Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said the rate was adjusted to account for a competing offer from another lender and other factors. “The Obamas have since had as much as $3 million invested through Northern Trust,” he said in a statement.

It’s a scandal! It’s an outrage! No, it’s just like the Lending Tree commercials on TV: “when banks compete, you win.”

Sheesh. I’d be concerned if a man running for president didn’t have the business sense to negotiate for the best deal possible. (It also has something to do with being smart with your money. On my meager government-bureaucrat income, I got offered a lower rate when I applied for a mortgage because I pay my bills on time.) But that won’t stop the righties from getting all worked up about some kind of “sweetheart” deal and implications that there’s somehow something illicit or illegal about it, and they’ll toss in a reference to Tony Rezko (the article helpfully leaves that door opening by mentioning the fact that he once owned property in the neighborhood).

And at some point, someone is going to slip in ever so artfully the question of why Barack and Michelle Obama would want such a big house (“six bedrooms, four fireplaces, a four-car garage and 5 1/2 baths, including a double steam shower and a marble powder room. It had a wine cellar, a music room, a library, a solarium, beveled glass doors and a granite-floored kitchen”) in such a fancy neighborhood; the implication being that if they’re such advocates for the poor and downtrodden, they shouldn’t live in a place like that. They would never dare call them “uppity,” but you know that’s what they mean.