• With: Kim Strassel, Dan Henninger, James Freeman, Bret Stephens, Mary Kissel, Collin Levy, David Feith

    HENNINGER: -- and causing spending to increase. It was one of the few forms of this sort that doesn't let the bureaucracies game it, and that's why spending always rises. This one worked, and now they're cutting it like that.

    GIGOT: The architect this have waiver, Mark Greenberg, was a critic of welfare reform working outside of the administration with the law -- with the Center on Law and Social Policy. Now he's at HHS, in the policy shop that issued the waiver.

    JAMES FREEMAN, ASSISTANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: Right.

    Our college, Joe Rago, dug up this very important fact. So this is rooted in actually an ideological criticism of welfare reform.

    FREEMAN: We now have a reality check. Clinton and other Democrats claiming for a while claiming, oh, this doesn't gut the reform. Nothing to see here. And 19 Democrats in the House this week, voting with the Republicans to affirm the earlier policy.

    GIGOT: The vote was 250-164, which is an overwhelming number.

    Kim, what about the politics this has? One of the things that just stuns me this week is that the Romney campaign had made welfare reform in the summer a big issue, the issue of the work waiver. And this week, despite the House vote, you don't hear a peep from the Romney campaign.

    What is this? Why --

    (CROSSTALK)

    KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: Yes. We talked about it earlier.

    They were having kind after bad week.

    (LAUGHTER)

    I think that sort of passed through.

    (LAUGHTER)

    But, look, what they've hit on, why they brought this up this summer, is it is a very powerful issue for a lot of Americans. Here is the thing. Most Americans think they don't mind America having a social safety net and giving something to those who are truly are in need, but they want to know that this is limited and that we have a policy making people go back to work if they are able to do so. And especially in this economic times that are very tough, they get very annoyed at the idea of people simply who are not working and receiving welfare benefits when they might be. And that's what Mr. Romney has been tapping into. And it's powerful, which is why you saw those Democrats vote with Republicans.

    GIGOT: It's so powerful that the Romney campaign is going to stop talking about it? Is that where we're at? I just don't get it. I don't get it.

    FREEMAN: They shouldn't. And there's a lot more to talk about if Mr.

    Romney chooses to. The other part of this we haven't mentioned is this

    1996 law gave the president no authority to do what he did. Many architects of that law have talked about how there is no waiver authority.

    So this is not legal. But --

    (CROSSTALK)

    GIGOT: That was part of the debate in 1996, about just how much discretion the states would have.

    FREEMAN: That's right. But for Mr. Romney, the opportunity here is, here we have still another reminder to a lot of Americans, how many people there are struggling in this economy, how many people need assistance. And another case where the Obama administration is looking for still another way to transfer wealth from taxpayers to others, instead of figuring out how you get the private economy growing. If you could just create some incentives to get the private capital in here, you wouldn't need all of these government programs.

    HENNINGER: And one other issue that's in the air right now, dependency, dependency on government programs. Welfare reform was passed because dependency on welfare was a real destructive problem. You had mothers and grandmothers handing the --

    (CROSSTALK)

    GIGOT: Generation to generation.

    HENNINGER: General to generation. And the idea here nice and make it easy for some of these people to go on welfare if they really need it. It's backsliding into a culture of dependency. Romney should be able to talk about that.

    GIGOT: We want people to escape poverty and get out --

    HENNINGER: Yes.

    GIGOT: -- and that means you've got to get into the work force.

    When we come back, Chicago kids went back to school this week after teachers there suspended their strike. The union president called it a victory for education. Was it?

    (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

    CHICAGO MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL: In this contract, we gave our children a seat at the table. In past negotiations, taxpayers paid more, but our kids got less. This time, our taxpayers are paying less and our kids are getting more.

    (END VIDEO CLIP)

    GIGOT: Three hundred and fifty thousand Chicago school children returned to class on Wednesday after the teachers union there voted to suspend its seven-day strike. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the new contract an honest compromise, but who really won?

    Wall Street Journal senior editorial page writer, Collin Levy; and assistant editorial features editor, David Feith, have been following the Chicago story. They join me now.

    So, Collin, what's your take on who won? You heard Rahm Emanuel. Was he right?

    COLLIN LEVY, SENIOR EDITORIAL PAGE WRITER: Well, I think when we look at this, basically -- I guess the answer is basically no. When you look at this five, 10 years from now, I think a lot of people who have been following the numbers on this are going to look back and say, hey, this was a moment where we saw a train wreck coming and we decided to basically continue down the same track. The city got some significant incremental improvements here. They managed to keep some of the principal control and some -- you know, they did get some movement on teacher evaluation. But overall, I think that this is still going to be a situation where the unions are in control here, and I think they've proved that. Now, the big thing coming down the line is the pensions issue for the teachers.

    GIGOT: Right.