CNBC’s Kudlow: On-Air Lawbreaker?

Larry “Goldilocks” Kudlow just set a dollar bill on fire live on CNBC.

I guess he’s trying to compete for court-jester status with house clown Jim Cramer. Good luck with that, Larry!

But seriously, why does the network think it needs these stunts to hold people’s attention in times like this? Leave aside the imagery of a pinstriped fundamentalist capitalist—one of the worst if not the worst offenders in press commentary during the bubble—burning money when folks are going homeless. Yuk Yuk.

Why’d Kudlow do it? Because the Fed is inflating the money supply, hurting the currency:

This is the value of our money. That’s what’s going on. All right, I don’t want to burn the place up…it’s going down in flames.

Fair enough, but what I’m interested in—and what I’m sure lots of other folks would be, too, are the potential consequences of destroying United States currency. Here’s Title 18, Section 333 of the U.S. Code:

Whoever mutilates, cuts, defaces, disfigures, or perforates, or unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, or Federal Reserve bank, or the Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt unfit to be reissued, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.

Any case would hinge on “intent to render…unfit to be reissued.”

But hey, at a time when the harsh glare of the spotlight is on CNBC and the thirst for revenge is high, you never know what an ambitious prosecutor might do.

(Before I get a bunch of email—I’m being tongue in cheek here, folks. I don’t really want him prosecuted!)

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.