So this is where the fiscal-cliff talks now stand: Politics and party orthodoxy reign supreme and trump even basic math. Boehner and President Obama are just $400 billion apart with their most recent offers, but that means nothing when it comes to closing a deal. The political differences are the real key to compromise, yet they are proving too difficult to overcome before the new year.

Both sides of the aisle are to blame, really. The Republicans are deeply committed to not raising tax rates, regardless of any potential blowback from the American public or fears they will be blamed for taking the country over the cliff.

And, just as stubbornly, Democrats do not want to budge on cutting entitlement programs. The president’s latest offer did not go very far in cutting the social-safety net. It did not make any deep cuts to Medicaid or even raise the eligibility age for Medicare, but that didn’t stop Democrats from crying foul. …

Part of the issue, congressional experts say, is that the cliff negotiations are a proxy for a bigger fight: control of the legislative agenda in 2013. Republicans would like to spend more time cutting dollars from the federal budget and overhauling the entitlement programs. Democrats want to move past the fiscal battles to enact the Affordable Care Act and possibly immigration reform.