I wouldn't discount hiring a programmer without a degree. I've worked with several excellent--really, truly excellent--programmers that came to the industry without anything other than motivation. But don't tell me that just because out of my 18 years of being academically involved with computers, 4 of those were spent mostly in the classroom that I don't know how to fucking code.
Sure, there's going to be exceptional members of each class. But look at it this way:
Who am I, as a un-degreed programmer, more likely to run into when dealing with someone with a degree - you, or the guy who can't code and who is using his degree as a crutch to bully the people who actually know what they're doing?
Who are you, as a degreed programmer,more likely to run into when dealing with someone without a degree - me, or the guy who just knows how to cargo cult his way through a CRUD web form?
I've taken a strong interest in biology, biochemistry, physics, neuroanatomy, sociology, psychology, history, and abstract math; while I have no major or minor in any of these subjects, I can generally have an interesting discussion about the relative merits of Bohm vs. Everett-Wheeler or the cellular hormone signalling going on in butterfly metamorphosis or the peculiar sociopolitics that influenced the transition from the last Chinese emperor to the pseudo-communist regime. And not everyone who didn't go to college is like that, but generally speaking, neither is everyone who went to college. And I've found that being a college graduate is completely orthogonal to knowing what the hell you're talking about, whether it's within your major or outside it.
But the thing is, if you're coming in as a Lead Developer, and you have a degree, I can't discount the possibility that you got the job on the merit of your degree rather than your skill - so from my perspective, the likelihood that you know how to code is less likely if you have the degree, because it provides an alternate (and regrettably much more salient) hypothesis for how you got here.
Does that make sense?