Again with the Balanced Budget Amendment?

AGAIN WITH THE BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT?…. Good lord, do we really have to debate the Balanced Budget Amendment all over again?

Two leading Senate candidates, backed by the tea party movement, are hoping to capitalize on GOP failures by campaigning on the promise to push for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution as one of their first priorities if elected.

Marco Rubio, who is running against Gov. Charlie Crist (I-Fla.) and Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) for his state’s Senate seat, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” with Bob Schieffer said that Republicans need to be held just as accountable as Democrats for their failed promises this November.

“The Republicans…didn’t fulfill some of the promises they had made in [1994] when they were elected,” said Rubio. “Things like a balanced budget amendment. Things like abandoning earmarks. Things like term limits.”

Abandoning earmarks is a silly and inconsequential gimmick, and we already have term limits — they’re called “elections.”

But Rubio and Buck talking up a constitutional amendment to require balanced budgets is just painfully dumb. That the message comes just days after House Republicans called for adding several trillion dollars to the debt makes it rather ironic. That it comes on the heels of a Republican White House and Republican Congress adding $5 trillion to the debt in eight years, and leaving a $1.3 trillion deficit for Democrats to clean up, makes the whole push almost amusing.

Regardless, the proposed amendment is, as Bruce Bartlett recently explained, “a terrible idea.” His item on this is well worth reading — and bookmarking for future reference — and it hits nearly all of the highlights, including the fact that a BBA would undermine the economy and is probably unenforceable anyway.

But I’d just emphasize the fact that sometimes, running a deficit is both wise and necessary, and writing a prohibition into constitutional stone would tie policymakers’ hands at key moments of crisis. Proponents have said the language would made exceptions in which deficits would be allowed — wars, economic crises, etc. — but at that point, there’s no real point in having the amendment anyway.

For that matter, if Rubio, Buck, or any of the so-called deficit hawks want a balanced budget, they can do us all a favor and present a plan on how to make that happen. That would take effort and intellectual honesty, so instead we get the easy way out — instead of doing the hard work, they want to trot out a gimmick that will mandate a policy goal they can’t figure out on their own.

In other words, those who want a balanced budget amendment should make plain how they’d balance the budget. Otherwise, the scheme is just a silly political charade.

Still, if Republicans make major gains in November, expect this to a key area of debate in the next Congress.