dusty, you came back after a 5 year break with your 267 research skill. I have eight characters with higher research than you have (and half of them aren't casters!). Not only do I get full value from my researchers, they tend to make some bank for me as well. Yes, the subcombines freakin' suck but those can be done during downtime well in advance of needing the spells.
With free to play, they needed to make the rank 1 versions of all spells easily available (since that's the rank the free & silver players have immediate access to). Show of hands, how many people actively use rank 1 spells post-71? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Rank 1 spells only have value to people who can't find/get/make the rank 2 or 3 versions of the spells but still want the use of the spell's ability. Before free to play, I made every TBS spell that was available for all my classes (read: all classes except beastlord) and several SoF if I recall. Why? Because I think gating spells behind faction requirements is idiotic when that expansion is no longer current (or even relevant). Remember the TBS code that was supposed to force people to do different missions by lowering the reward for popular missions? A single group can manipulate that system today (done it) and that's asinine. Who the heck is doing TBS content right now, except for hand aug?
Bottom line is, research is still very useful. The difference is, people can't farm up or research low level spells and charge a king's ransom for them (which I have been guilty of doing for "rare" spells like Bane of Nife and Pox and Malo and Word of Restoration and level 65 glyphed rune word spells and such). You stand a much better chance of making a profit selling spells in your own level range since those are the materials you'll see most often.
As for the dumbing down aspect, I don't like it but I can't blame them for doing it. Let's pretend you're the CEO of a company and you see your competitors following a trend that's making them ridiculous money. Money, I should add, at your expense since they're stealing many of your customers. Now, do you try to find some way to integrate those trends into your rapidly shrinking customer base or do you remain obstinate and think that your way has worked for years so it'll continue to work and people will come to their senses and come rushing back to you? I don't like what today's EQ has become but I can't blame SOE for trying to make it what they think is "casual friendly". I also can't blame them for trying to pass off an unlimited trial as a free to play model. "Maximum accessibility" (read: faceroll difficulty) and "free to play" are ruling the MMO genre right now. No barrier to entry (besides downloading a client) and no recurring fees without your express permission, make the genre accessible to even those people who didn't know what 'MMO' stood for two, three, five years ago.
Bottom line, those crybabies have more money (collectively) than you do. And C.R.E.A.M so.....