For those of you who may have missed it, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama staged a watershed moment in the history of stupid presidential campaign rhetoric earlier this week in Wisconsin. Two days before the state’s primary, the Bloomberg headline read: “Clinton, Obama Trade Barbs in Wisconsin Over ‘Hope.’ ”

That’s right: barbs. About hope.

“It will take more than just speeches to fulfill our dreams,” Sen. Clinton said, really going out on a limb. “It will take a lot of hard work.”

“Don’t tell me words don’t matter,” Obama retorted. “If we don’t inspire the country to believe again, then it doesn’t matter how many policies and plans we have.”

Clearly, Obama is the worse offender here. At least Hillary, with all of her experience, knows that getting Americans of all ages “involved,” and “energized,” is cruel because it will inevitably lead to disappointment. This explains the cautionary tone of her rhetoric: Nothing scares away hip young voters like the threat of “hard work.”

On the other hand, we have Obama, who is constantly talking about the “audacity,” of hope, perhaps because “audacity” sounds better than “idiocy” or “futility.” What does he want to accomplish by “inspiring the country to believe again”? Perhaps in his overactive imagination, the war on terror will play out as follows:

Terrorist 1: “Have you seen this article? The American people now have hope!”

Terrorist 2: “But hope is more powerful than any weapon, prevailing even in the darkest of times! With hope, one can accomplish anything!”

Terrorist 1: “We shall never succeed as terrorists. Let us go open a record store.”

This, of course, is ludicrous. Many of America’s problems don’t have clear solutions. For instance, no one seems to have figured out how to control the constant diffusion of jobs out of our country and into the hands of people who are willing and able to work much longer hours for much less money. Obama has repeatedly claimed that he wants to “take away those tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas” — but at the same time, he’s telling us that he wants to raise the minimum wage every year. This will only increase the disparity between American wages and wages overseas, creating a greater incentive to outsource even more jobs.

Yes, even our most progressive policies will end up harming the very people that they were meant to benefit. From the Nevada desert to the forests of Vermont, from sea to shining sea, we are screwed.

Help is not on the way. The U.S. government’s 2007 Financial Report predicts that by 2040, the national debt will considerably exceed the yearly earning power of our entire economy. Various estimates have China’s overall economic power surpassing our own sometime within the next 20 to 40 years. This is bad news for a nation that secures its world dominance by spending about as much on its military as every other country in the world combined. Like every great world power before it, America will topple under its own expectations of hegemony.

Clearly, then, this attitude called “hope” is nothing but a fad, an idyllic daydream that will provide only a brief distraction from our nation’s implacable spiral into irrelevance or total collapse.

Of course, these dire predictions might never come to fruition; there could easily be some sort of global catastrophe well before then. Many experts are saying that there is nothing that we can do to halt the potentially disastrous progress of global warming. And it’s only a matter of time before Iran or some rogue terrorist group acquires nuclear weapons. All of this jumping around and shouting “Yes we can!” only means that we will be more tired when the time comes to head for the hills.

Meanwhile, Obama keeps on traversing America, delivering his fairy-tale message of “hope” and “change,” oblivious to the inescapable reality that each of us will eventually die and be forgotten.

Let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that there’s hope for the human race, either. Inevitably, our sun will gutter out, and even if mankind has managed to scatter itself beyond the borders of its meager solar system, it, too, will see its final moments in time, whether at the hands of a malicious alien race, or — more likely — from its own stupidity and greed.

Barack Obama tells us that by believing in ourselves, we Americans can turn our dire, futile future into a utopian wonderland where the government isn’t bankrupt; where everyone can get a college education, a job and health care; and where people don’t stare listlessly at the ceiling and wonder why it’s even worth it to go on living for another day.

Well, we can’t.

Michael Zink is a junior in Saybrook College. His column runs on alternate Fridays.