I'm a recent addition to the gun owners club, as such I can't comment on how Ruger has changed over the years.
However, what I can comment on is from a recent buyer standpoint. With no predilection towards brands, and no real product history to go on - I have indiscriminately purchased firearms based on what I have handled, and used. To my surprise, half of all the guns I have ended up being rugers of one form or another, most of them new models.
With regard to the 10/22 I will agree that out of the box it was not the most accurate or the best finished firearm I own, however; what it did do was work, all the time, every time. It ate whatever ammo i put in it - it remains today my most stable and predictable firearm with regards to ammo and weather conditions. The trigger is plastic, it's okay by me. I never used a metal one so I have no idea what to compare it to. But the one that's there is good enough, and comparable to the competition.
Granted, I have replaced the barrel with an aftermarket highly polished blued one, and the replacement sporter stock is a walnut one that's over 20 years old. and the trigger has been reworked to a lighter and smoother movement. I can say that IMO my final configuration is what the gun should be in a "loaded" configuration option. To that defense, why not? the 10/22 worked great when I got it, but yeah i agree - it could be so much more. I paid $200 for the gun, new, and I put about $200 extra into the gun over a year to make it that. Would I have paid $400 from the shop for it in my final configuration?- doubtful. $400 seems like too much when I look at it that way. But $200, and than another $200 in modifications - sure. Somehow I can swallow that. Simple marketing. I think Ruger is right on with this one.
With regard to the my other Ruger firearms - some I own because they are the only one in that niche (Charger) and others (SR1911) had what I felt to be the best balance between cost and features. While I would never compare the looks of my GP100 to the sleek sexy appeal of a 686 or a python - I found it more comfortable to shoot than my friends 686, and no discernible difference in trigger feel.
Has Ruger made cost cutting measures - undoubtedly. But so have so many other firearm makers. Look at a set of smith revolvers from 1960 to today - a 686 today is not a 686 from 1980, and either of them aren't a model 19 either. It happens
I agree with the others here who have posted that the firearms have been tweaked more towards the emphasis of accuracy over looks. Lawyering up triggers and actions -I feel has done far more though to destroy firearm feel and function than any changeover in manufacturing processes.