Politics and on-air journalism gets pretty squirrelly during a presidential election cycle. You get the wise pundits who have to map out a timeline: part to explain why Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders couldn't have a chance and then, later, to explain how of course its possible.

Tempers become heated and reason can go out the window. And when the object is numbers, a topic that scares off many journalists, things can become even stranger. That's what happened on Fox Business when Stuart Varney interviewed DNC Superdelegate Erin Bilbray, who is a Sanders supporter.

Bilbray talked about wealth redistribution and Varney said: "He's going to take it off me. I already pay 60 percent of my income in taxes and he wants more. Please, don't confuse the issue. He's going to take it off me and give it to somebody else."

Avoiding the entire redistribution argument for a moment, as you could argue that many government policies redistribute wealth, only sometimes upward to wealthy people or corporations, let's take that 60 percent taxes statement.

Despite the British accent, I'll assume that Varney doesn't pay expatriate taxes to the U.K. That means, since Fox is in New York, he likely pays federal, state, and city taxes. Let's also say that he's married, sole income of his household, and making at least $3 million a year in taxable income (which maxes out the rates at all three tax levels). Here's how the taxes work out:

  • Federal taxes will have him pay $130,578.50 (about 30 percent) on the amount up to $464,851 and then 39.6 percent on sums over that. That would be $1,134,496, or 37.8 percent.
  • New York State tax rates are highest if your taxable income is $2,125,450 or more. That demands 8.82 percent, or $264,600.
  • New York City tax rates on taxable income of $500,000 or more are a flat $19,155 plus 3.876 percent of the amount over $500,000. That works out to $116,055, or 3.9 percent

The complications come because the tax systems use marginal calculations. Different parts of your income are taxed at different rates. Only the top amount is charged at the top rate.

So, for our $3 million example, the tax should be:

37.8% + 8.82% + 3.9% = 50.52%

Pretty high, indeed, but not 60 percent. In fact, even if the rates were absolute and not marginal, the total would be 52.3 percent -- still not 60 percent. Plus, at that level, if you're smart you've got someone doing your tax planning, which means reducing the taxable income and decreasing the total tax you pay on your income.

Varney may be worried about tax planning by Bernie Sanders, but it sounds like he's getting it done by Bernie Madoff.