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By Michelle Malkin  •  September 19, 2004 02:12 AM

There’s more depressing, disgusting news on the Big Government Conservatism front. As is typically the case with government estimates, the Bush administration’s Medicare prescription drug entitlement expansion cost estimates are wrong. In the wrong direction.

The Washington Post reports:

President Bush promised Congress that his Medicare prescription drug benefit would cost no more than $400 billion over 10 years, but once the legislation was enacted, federal actuaries boosted the estimate to $534 billion. Now, Bush administration projections indicate that the cost could be considerably higher.

According to internal White House budget office estimates of the long-term cost of Medicare, spending related to the new drug benefit could increase by $42 billion over the coming decade.

The revised figure appears in a chart prepared during this summer’s “mid-session review” by the Office of Management and Budget and Medicare actuaries. The document provides a detailed breakdown of an extra $176 billion in Medicare spending projected for the next 10 years. The chart, provided to The Washington Post late last week, identifies $42 billion of that increase “as related to MMA,” the initials of the Medicare Modernization Act, the new prescription drug law.

Several budget analysts said the chart indicates that the price tag of the president’s new drug program could total as much as $576 billion over 10 years…

Over the past two weeks, Bush has been buffeted by unfavorable developments in the Medicare program, including the disclosure of a record premium increase next year and revelations that the government concealed other cost projections. Also, the Government Accountability Office ruled that the administration should have withheld the salary of former Medicare chief Thomas A. Scully because he had wrongly prevented a federal employee from providing higher cost estimates on the prescription drug bill to Congress…

NRO’s Deroy Murdock bravely excoriated the White House’s apparent efforts to stifle true cost projections. Here are some the recommendations he made in June, which I heartily endorse:

*HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson also should be summoned to Capitol Hill to explain what he knew, when, and if he discussed any of this with President Bush.

*Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas himself indicated he would pursue Administration officials if evidence arose of illegality. “If there was a violation of the law,” he told his committee April 1, “the chair stands ready to use whatever tool is necessary to get to the bottom of the violation of the law.”

*Rank-and-file GOP House and Senate members should caucus with their leaders to determine whether senior Republicans hoodwinked them into voting for the drug benefit on false pretenses. If members of the drug-benefit conference committee and/or Republican floor leaders received and failed to share the Administration’s higher estimates, party backbenchers should remove these untrustworthy colleagues and replace them with others who will not lie to them.

*The United States Department of Justice should conduct a criminal investigation to determine if members of the Bush administration violated any or all of the five federal laws cited above, or additional statutes. Anyone who fooled Congress into buying a brand-new, $534 billion entitlement by pretending it only had a $395-billion price tag should be prosecuted and, if convicted, sentenced to a federal penitentiary for the maximum allowable term.

Democrats complain most loudly about this outrage. Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians, however, should be at least as furious that federal bureaucrats in a GOP administration used coercion and lies to engineer a $534 billion expansion of the welfare state.

Plus $42 billion. For now.

Like I said: Don’t Go There, W.

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