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How the “Wal-Mart Syndrome” Pushes Millions More Onto Food Stamps – Money Morning

Call it the “Wal-Mart Syndrome”.

Entire industries — such as low-end retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) and fast food chains like McDonald’s Inc. (NYSE: MCD) – pump up their profits by paying employees extremely low wages.

But thousands of Americans who need to support a household on such low wages – either the federally mandated minimum wage of $7.25 or just a bit above it – can only do so with public assistance.

Warren Buffett Stocks: Where the Oracle of Omaha Puts his Money

Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A, BRK.B) has been on a buying spree, adding a plethora of positions to its storied portfolio of “Warren Buffett stocks.”

Last Wednesday the conglomerate released its stock holdings. Mutual funds and retail investors closely watch the picks to dissect the selections for hints about the company’s tactics. Other simply want to mimic Buffett’s moves.

This quarter Berkshire disclosed new stakes in General Motors (NYSE: GM) and Viacom (Nasdaq: VIAB), larger positions in Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) and Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE: WMT), and a small increased position in International Business Machines (NYSE: IBM).

Declining stakes were noted in Kraft Foods (NYSE: KFT) and Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG).

The Berkshire portfolio ballooned to $89.1 billion on March 31 from $77 billion at the end of 2011. The firm is the largest shareholder in Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO), Wells Fargo and American Express (NYSE: AXP).

The additions come as Buffett and Berkshire Vice Chairman Charlie Munger have tasked former hedge fund managers Todd Combs and Ted Weschler with more investing duties. The two were brought into Berkshire to help oversee investments, as Buffett, Berkshire’s CEO and chairman, transitions the company for his ultimate departure.

The 81-year-old sage acknowledged that he makes Berkshire’s larger bets, while his team of stock pickers is responsible for smaller wagers.

In his widely read shareholder letter in February, Buffett penned, “When our quarterly filings report relatively small holdings, these are not likely to be buys I made but rather holdings denoting purchases by Todd or Ted. They have the brains, judgments and character” to do the job.

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