MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ Republican presidential hopeful John McCain chided his own party Monday as he called for an end to wasteful government spending and for a rededication to the principles of free trade.
The U.S. economy would be better served by being more open to global competition _ even if workers in some sectors would have to prepare to pursue other careers, he said.
``Change is hard, and while most of us gain, some industries, companies and workers are forced to struggle with very difficult choices,'' McCain said in the second of three policy addresses intended to inject momentum into the Arizona senator's White House bid.
McCain said he would focus on education and job training programs for displaced workers, and work to improve the overall public education system to better prepare students for the work place.
``I'm not running for president to preside over our decline,'' he said.
McCain said wasteful government spending ``is a black mark on our party.''
``We did some good things,'' the four-term senator said about the Republican control of Congress that ended in November. ``But we left some big things undone because they were too hard and too politically risky.''
McCain said the GOP forgot ``who we were: tightfisted stewards of the federal treasury who keep our priorities straight. We asked Americans to make us the governing party, and we rewarded them by becoming the party of government.''
McCain promised to veto ``every single pork barrel bill'' lawmakers send him, to review each agency to eliminate obsolete government programs, and to balance the federal budget.
McCain said he disagrees with President Bush's call to reduce congressional earmarks by half.
``I support a proposal to eliminate earmarks completely,'' he said. ``Saying cutting earmarks in half is like saying you want to get rid of half the drug dealers.''
On economic issues, McCain typically earns high marks from fiscal conservatives for his longtime campaign against wasteful spending and lawmakers' pet projects. However, critics take issue with his position on taxes. McCain opposed Bush's tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, but now advocates extending them because, he says, doing otherwise would amount to a tax increase.
McCain said after the speech that his own tax-cut proposal in 2000 would also have reined in federal spending and saved money for unexpected contingencies _ like the war in Iraq.
``If we had enacted those we would now be talking about further tax cuts,'' he said.
Asked after the speech why his Republican opponents have raised more campaign money than he has, McCain said: ``Because I'm not competent, I guess.''
McCain reported raising $13 million for the primary election in the first quarter. Mitt Romney, the GOP fundraising leader, collected $20.7 million and Rudy Giuliani raised $13.6 million.
McCain repeated his call to work toward enhancing security in Iraq and argued that recent suicide bombings don't indicate the strategy is failing.
``You'll always see the spectacular suicide bombings,'' McCain said. ``Ask the Israelis how hard that is to defend against.''