Advocates of a tiny but lucrative tax on financial transactions are increasingly hopeful that President Barack Obama's need to more firmly establish himself as the Main Street candidate in 2012 will lead him to back the measure.
The tax -- though nearly inconsequential on a per-trade basis -- would reap billions in revenue from Wall Street's most rapacious institutions while also cutting down on their incentive to engage in the high-stakes, lightning-fast gambling that has proven particularly lucrative for them, at the expense of others.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) introduced legislation last month that would impose a 0.03 percent fee on financial transactions, an amount so small that its sting would only be felt by speculators who rapidly move vast sums in and out of trading positions.
But because of the enormous volume of transactions, the new tax would still raise $350 billion in next 10 years, according to nonpartisan congressional scorekeepers.
The bill is "generating some interest in the White House, and I'm hopeful that the president will pick up on this," said Harkin, a fifth-term senator.
"I think there's interest in the White House at looking at sources of revenue, and I think this is one that's got their interest," Harkin said. "They haven't said yes, they haven't said no."
Mike Lux, a progressive strategist, said he thinks that despite some internal opposition within the administration -- most notably from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner -- the tax may be an idea whose time has come.