I never said cost had anything to do with it. And it seems we are viewing these programs from different viewpoints. As a photographer and individual that uses the Adobe Suite for business there is no way we could ever accomplish the things we need to with programs such as paint, gimp, etc.
As somebody doing some fan art in their spare time, and just generally focking around, then yeah you can get by with some of that stuff, some artistic ability, and knowing the ins and outs. But directly compared price and everything else aside, and if you have extensive knowledge of both, you are going to be able to create far better final product in a professional quality program like the Adobe ones rather than in some of the more basic programs.
And I would like to know why you believe CS2 was the high point. Just curious. I have been using the Adobe programs since Photoshop 7 and while there are some things I wish they hadn't changed, overall I believe they have gotten better with each revision.
So uhm, Dan Paladin uses Flash, and so do most of the web comic artists out there, and most professional graphic artists use the Adobe Suite in one form or another. You're saying none of them have any skill?
And your statement of most of the art being done for you is just ignorant. By that logic nobody should even be using computer or making digital art, as "things are already done for you". Everybody should be ink, pencil, or paint.
As an artist there are plenty of different mediums and whichever one chooses to use is just a different form of expression.
*note: I never said any program sucked.