SCARBOROUGH’S ODD DEFINITION OF ‘SAVE’…. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough is incensed that the White House doesn’t want to cut entitlements, leaving it to congressional Republicans to do the heavy lifting. (via Jon Chait)

White House watchers believe the president will not touch Social Security until he is safely ensconced in his second term.

The same goes for the two entitlement programs that cause economists the greatest concern, Medicare and Medicaid. So it looks like it will once again be the task of courageous Republicans to save programs put in place by liberal Democrats.

How gracious of them. Republicans intend to “save” entitlement programs? Why didn’t they just say so?

Probably because this is very silly.

First, Social Security is in pretty good shape, conservative rhetoric notwithstanding, and the White House has made a deliberate effort in recent weeks to separate it from the larger fiscal debate, precisely because its finances are more secure.

Second, last year, Democrats cut unnecessary Medicare spending and improved the program’s long-term finances considerably. For their trouble, congressional Republicans — the ones who claim to be so anxious to tackle long-term entitlement concerns — based much of their 2010 attack strategy on going after Dems for daring to touch Medicare. Worse, these same GOP offcials are spending much of 2011 trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, necessarily undoing the Medicare cost savings and making the deficit much worse, in the short and long term.

And third, “saving” entitlements doesn’t seem to be part of the GOP game plan. There’s no specific proposal on the table, at least not yet, but the plan presented by the chairman of the House Budget Committee includes turning Medicare into a voucher program that wouldn’t keep up with rising costs, screwing over seniors in the process, and privatizing Social Security out of existence.

A few adjectives come to mind to describe all of this, but “courageous” isn’t one of them. Scarborough, I’m afraid, is deeply confused.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.