In response to my June 21 column in the News Tribune (An Economist’s View: “Biden, media failing us on soaring lumber prices”), a letter on June 30 noted that, apparently, I “have decided it's time to once again convince readers that up is down.” The argument in my column was summarized by the letter as: “Apparently, the high lumber prices that we've all suffered from for the last year are the fault of our new president.”

The writer of the letter (Reader’s View: “Blame wood prices on COVID-19, not Biden”) might have avoided a good deal of embarrassment by actually bothering to read my column before responding. Here is what I wrote: “The reason for soaring lumber prices is a shortage of supply. Sawmills closed by the COVID-19 pandemic have been slow to reopen, while demand for lumber has steadily climbed, driven by robust demand for new housing.”

The letter pointed approvingly to an article on a News Tribune business page, noting, “An entire article about the lumber shortage lays the blame on COVID-19.” So did my column! Anyone who actually read my column would know that.

Let this be a lesson in reading more than a headline before hitting “Send.”

John Phelan

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St. Paul

The writer is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment (, a conservative public-policy think tank based in Golden Valley, Minnesota.

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