The old saw, "the rich get richer, but the poor get poorer", is all bunk. Economic growth is good for most people, including the poor. What's better is: The rich get richer, but many of the poor get left behind. This is the misfortune of uneven growth. However this doesn't mean we should stunt the economy. That would be a terrible tragedy. Poverty can only be eradicated once and for all by a healthy and growing economy.
However this fact should not paralyze anti-poverty efforts. Much can be accomplished to alleviate poverty without compromising rapid economic growth. In many cases antipoverty programs can simultaneously address growth and poverty reduction - for example, public health measures can simultaneously address a basic need and raise worker productivity.
The latest Human Development Report (United Nations Human Development Program) highlights this very well. They rank countries based on the Human Development Index (HDI, a broad indicator of a country's well-being) as well as per capita GDP (an income indicator of average well-being). If you look at the last column of Table 1, you will see the difference between per capita income rank and the HDI rank. A positive difference means that per capita income rank is below the HDI rank - meaning, the country does relatively better in delivering human development, given relatively inferior incomes. Lots of "bang for the buck". A negative difference means a country is underperforming - average income is relativeley high, but its ability to deliver human development relatively low.
So look at Cuba - the rank difference is +40! (Whatever damage socialist policies have done, they should be recognized for their accomplishments.) Oil states Oman and Saudi Arabia are -30 and -37 respectively. Wonder where all that oil revenue is going.
The Philippines (ranked right in the middle at 84 with respect to HDI) has a rank difference of +19. Not bad, not bad at all. China, despite growing income inequality in the last three decades, still weighs in at +11 (to be socialist once seems glorious!)
Now scrolling down to the bottom are some eye-popping numbers: South Africa, -68, Equatorial Guinea, -93; Botswana, -70. (A lot of this has got to do with diminished life expectancy due to the AIDS epidemic.)
Everybody should get busy making money and getting the growth engine running. But general-benefit institutions (government, donor agencies, noprofits, etc.) should be even busier, and be adequately funded. (That means your pocket, and mine too.)
Thumb twiddling is not an option.