With the presidential election in sight, the air is thick with conflicting claims whose main effect is to confuse. However, any confusion can be allayed through the grasp of a few undeniable facts.

First, it's the obligation of an economic system to provide for society's well-being. By this standard ours is a failed system. The wealth gap between the 1percent at the top and the rest is at a 90-year high. Unemployment remains high. Over 40 million Americans live below the poverty level, with one in four children on food stamps. Fifty million still have no health coverage. Higher education is becoming increasingly unaffordable. Consumer debt is at a historic high, with student-loan debt at $1 trillion - much of which will not be repaid because of a lack of high-paying jobs for college graduates.

Because capitalism is global, its failure is worldwide. While teachers strike in Chicago, striking miners are being shot down in South Africa. Europeans have taken to the streets in protest against austerity programs. Afghan and South American farmers must grow poppy and coca as their only sustainable cash crops. There's so much poverty in the Middle East that people have finally massed to overthrow repressive governments. And Chinese and other Asian workers who have made Apple the world's richest corporation cannot afford to buy the products they make for export.

The data evidencing systemic failure is limitless - yet both presidential candidates illogically swear by the viability of this system and propose most of their solutions within it. Their promise of resurrecting private-sector jobs is pure politalk. The era of American industrialism has gone with the outsourcing of labor to cheap foreign markets and robotization. Read The New York Times article (8/12/12) under the headline "Skilled Work, Without the Worker." Virtually every new U.S. job created is in the low-paying service sector, which is itself being robotized.

None of this will change because transnational corporations (TNCs) call the shots, and governments - as long as they accede to capitalism's assertion of private property rights - can't stop them, just as they can't prevent them from stashing $21 trillion in tax-free havens while the governments go broke.

So what's the difference between Romney and Obama? Obama acknowledges many of these realities and knows that people can be helped only through government intervention in the failed system - even while he upholds it. He wants to preserve and extend supportive government institutions like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and affordable public education, while attempting to bring economic relief by redistributing some wealth downwards. Romney and his Paul Ryan-led right wing would either abolish or privatize these institutions - thereby subjecting them to the same pitfalls that have resulted in systemic failure. And by lowering the taxes of corporations and the rich, they would move even more money to the top.

In foreign policy, Obama has been carefully warding off Israeli pressure to attack Iran - which, through self-preservation, could do nothing with nuclear weapons even if it had them. The Republicans might yield to Israel in an anti-recession tactic: sustain employment and arms-industry profit by making war.

These simple facts should dispel any confusion and free you to make a clear choice.

Andrew Torre lives in Landgrove.