Susan Collins slipped the knife in gracefully.

The Republican senator from Maine said that it took “courage” for House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, to advance what he would have Americans believe is a deficit reduction proposal.

But, she explained Friday, “I don’t happen to support Congressman Ryan’s plan…”

Collins’ announcement, made in an interview with a Maine television station, signals a break by a key Senate Republican with the Ryan bill, which received lockstep GOP support in the House. And Collins may not be the only senator from her side of the aisle to break ranks.

Indeed, while Collins is considered to be something of a moderate, honest conservatives should have just as much trouble with the fiscal folly that Ryan proposes.

No one who is serious about reducing deficits, responsible budgeting or the maintenance of a functional society could back Ryan’s scheme—a bait-and-switch scheme that does not even propose to balance the federal budget until 2040.

Ryan, a Washington careerist whose devotion to his party’s most generous campaign contributors has always superseded any interest in fiscal responsibility (remember the leadership role he played in rounding up the Republican votes that were needed to pass the 2008 Wall Street bailout), has used the current budget debate to advance initiatives that have long been the highest priorities of the speculators: privatization of Social Security and the tranformation of Medicare and Medicaid into voucher programs.

Collins is a savvy senator who represents a state where a substantial portion of the population—not just the elderly but many families in difficult circumstances—rely on the Medicare and Medicaid programs Ryan seeks to gut.

She may peddle some platitudes about how “at least Ryan had the courage to come out with a detailed plan.”

But she is opposing Ryan’s plan, and appropriately so, if she wants to position herself as a defender of programs that are exceptionally popular in her state. There is not much doubt among reasonable observers that President Obama is right when he says that the Ryan budget plan (as passed by the Republican-controlled House) would “end Medicare as we know it and make cuts to Medicaid that would leave millions…without the care they need.”

While Ryan may be determined to undermine Medicare and Medicaid—with an eye toward clearing the way for private-sector profiteering—Collins refers to the entitlements as “critical social programs.” And she has a long record of recognizing that doing damage to them is morally irresponsible, fiscally unsound and politically dangerous.

So Collins will oppose Ryan’s fiscal folly. And the Senate opposition to the most crooked scheme since Teapot Dome will be bipartisan in scope and character.