– James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

jimsaftcolumnLike it or not the United States will be forced to nationalize large swathes of its banking system by the time the leaves fall from the trees in Washington.

The tragedy is that we will have to wait that long and that the costs will mount.

The plan to rescue the banks, or, er, the people, as enunciated by Treasury Secretary Geithner, is no plan, only an apparent set of contradictory principles: an ideological one not to nationalize and a political one not to subsidize too obviously.

The plan will fail unless the administration comes out in favor of either subsidy or seizure of failing banks. Either the United States will be forced to nationalize when that becomes apparent or perhaps it is waiting until that failure makes nationalization more politically palatable.