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Paul Ryan, R-Wall Street

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Reprinted from The Nation

The new speaker backs bank bailouts, risky investment schemes, and trade deals that have battered his hometown.

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Paul Ryan began his tenure as the 54th speaker of the House with a well-received speech that placed a great deal of emphasis on the role of the chamber as a representative body. "We are the body closest to the people," the congressman told his colleagues after being elected to replace outgoing House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday. "Every two years, we face the voters -- and sometimes face the music. But we do not echo the people. We represent them. We are supposed to study up and do the homework that they cannot do. So when we do not follow regular order -- when we rush to pass bills a lot of us do not understand -- we are not doing our job. Only a fully functioning House can truly represent the people."

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Excellent rhetoric. But who does Paul Ryan really represent?

When Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Washington, nominated Ryan for the speakership, she described him as "the representative for the state of Wisconsin, the man from Janesville, the honorable Paul D. Ryan."

Officially, that is true.

He does represent Janesville, a blue-collar town hard hit by the deindustrialization that has extended from the trade policies Ryan backs. But if it was left to Janesville, he would not be in Congress. In 2012, when Ryan was busy running for vice president on Mitt Romney's Republican ticket, the congressman was on the ballot twice -- for the vice presidency and for his House seat.

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