The only problem is that you chose the wrong game.
Anet never intended for GW2 to focus on the gear threadmill. How you even missed that is beyond me.
If you think WoW's popularity is attributed to bumping of a few bytes of data in the data file of a virtual item, you need to play more MMOs. The last few major MMO releases were all standard gear threadmills with vertical progression. Did you get the memo about what happened to them?
To me Balance is where everyone can kill something regardless of their class. Time should be no factor.
The whole point behind GW1 was horizontal progression. If GW2 also goes this route, it is a perfectly viable alternative (or supplement).
But in order to do so, there must be some emphasis given to balance between classes. Which is why it does matter how the different classes/roles/playstyles rank against each other.