GALESBURG, Ill. — Even in this city of abandoned factories, it is possible to see some of the benefits the United States reaps from increased foreign trade: At the rail yard, where boxcars of bargain-price Asian goods are routed to American consumers; at the nearby slaughterhouse, where pigs are packaged for the global market; and at Knox College, where almost 10 percent of the students now come from foreign countries.
It is also hard to miss the enduring costs. In 2004, Maytag shut down the refrigerator factory that for decades was Galesburg’s largest employer and moved much of the work to Mexico. Barack Obama, then running to represent Illinois in the Senate, described the workers as victims of globalization in his famous speech that year at the Democratic National Convention.
A decade later, many of those workers are still struggling. The city’s population is in decline, and the median household income fell 27 percent between 1999 and 2013, adjusting for inflation.