Paul, I have to say I agree with you that the certification model of education and proving your worth is not particularly fair or effective. It just seems to be the way the industry has evolved. As @aditshar pointed out, his company paid for several certification programs for him. But I believe he works for an extremely large company. So only the IT pros working in that environment where their employers have big training budgets are really able to benefit.
I also think the vendor-centric nature of the certs is going to rapidly decline in usefulness, and I wonder if we'll see more cross-vendor certs, or more people not bothering to get certified in the first place because the skills are not applicable enough to their real work. Anyone have thoughts on that?