( - promoted by Rob "EaBo Clipper" Eno)
Throughout the 90s, the Democrats stood for fiscal responsibility by opposing most tax cuts, while the Republicans flailed at cutting tax rates in a system that is fundamentally flawed. The electorate correctly judged that the Republicans would not get growth going, they would only drain the treasury. The genius of Bill Clinton was to make the Republicans look fiscally irresponsible. Combine that with a generalized acceptance of Keynesian spending among the economic establishment, and you have a Democratic Party with a kind of growth message for the private sector: government spending on the lower- and middle-class helps the private economy, because government spending is middle-class investment.
Ryan has a sometimes-apocalyptic view on government debt, but is essentially a growth-oriented reformer, not a radical.
But by focusing on the cuts he has proposed, the Democrats are returning to pre-Clinton times, when they saw the Democratic Party as a defender of the poor and a redistribution machine regardless of the effect on the middle class or the private economy.
So we are going the see the Dems defending their weakening of Clinton's welfare reform, being duped into fighting with Brown over the welfare voters, and attacking Ryan for hurting the poor. Up until now, a good part of the defense of the welfare state has been the middle-class employment program which government and non-profit administration provides. If the Dems go full-bore at Ryan as a cutter, they can be drawn beyond that and position themselves as advocates for higher taxes and higher spending simply on moral or redistributionist grounds -- not because it will make anything better for the middle class in the current economy.