It is this threat of economic armageddon that the Tea Partiers are wielding in order to accomplish whatever it is they are really hoping to accomplish. Exactly what that is is far from clear. They say that they want to shrink the size of government, but their actions belie this.
...the consequences of any default would, ironically, actually increase the size of the government relative to the U.S. economy—the very outcome that Republican intransigents claim to be trying to avoid.
So there are only two possibilities: either they're stupid, or they really want to accomplish something else. Either way does not bode well for the future.
But their actual goal doesn't affect the fact that whatever it is they want to accomplish they can't do it via the normal legislative process. So they have to resort to the threat of economic armageddon with an outcome contrary to their stated goals in order to do whatever it is they really want to do. That is the very definition of extortion.
BTW, I am seriously considering going to the bank and withdrawing a rather substantial amount of physical cash, and I urge you to do likewise. There are two reasons for this. First, in a worst-case scenario, physical cash will be very useful, and if you wait until it's too late you won't be able to get any. And second, if We The People start to pose a credible threat of broad-based run on the banks before it is too late to pull back from the brink, maybe that will knock some sense into these morons.
I still believe that Congress will figure this out and we won't default. Certainly the bond market seems very sanguine about what is going on. But I think the odds are no longer 100% even to an engineering approximation, and that makes me very, very nervous. Because the Tea Partiers just might be crazy enough to take us over the edge.
And if they do, it will be Bad.