Jossie, you are a scientist, right? Define the 'real job' for us first, please. "The real job is a job in which..." what happens? You get a real paycheck, that's for sure, and if that's the main indication of the 'real job', then you definitely got one. If, on the other hand, you define a 'real job' as the one from which you can be fired, then a tenured professor is not a real job.
Aside from that, there are several layers of complications that your question uncovers. Apparently, you are a smart person with a dedication, given that you were able to finish your Ph.D. It is, however, also apparent to me that you cannot really explain what you do to a layperson. You are not alone in this: the portrayal of academia as the ivory tower stems from this same lack of communication between professors and the general public that just cannot understand the value added that academia provides.
I have worked as an assistant professor on a tenure track for three years, was booted from it, and found home in industry. I can tell very specifically what the value of academic research is for me in my position: it can produce new efficient ways for me to make the product that my company delivers better... where better may include concepts like "more accurate" (I am a social statistician, so that's a relevant dimension of my work), "faster", "more robust wrt various uncheckable assumptions", etc. Unfortunately for me, academic research produces hell of a lot of noise that's irrelevant for me: from ~100 papers in the top general interest journals, I would find 1 to be of relevance to my work. The ratio is of course higher in specialized journals, where it can be 3:1 or so. (Nature or Science or PNAS are out of my league; they may publish statistics papers on a cute little topic from time to time, but generally the ratio will be what, 1:10000?) So I am the natural selection process: out of all the random mutations that academic researchers publish, I am selecting the relevant traits that need to be preserved because there is a survival value in them.
Now, the question that I keep asking myself is, "How much of that random noise does need to come out so that in the month of October 2013, I will read up something that will change the way I work?", and apparently the answer is, well, several hundred papers (out of which I will get may be 10 or so to read). That's a costly enterprise: if an average professor is paid $120K, and they publish three papers a year, then that's $40K per paper (we can ignore teaching: first, nobody really cares about it, and second, you can buy a teacher for $5K/course, way below the cost of a research paper that I just derived). So the total for one usable academic result is [drum roll] $4M for the hundred papers that need to be published. That's A LOT of money... although I would humbly hope that for each disgrunteld StasK, there are hundred other statisticians who would find the other 99 random papers useful for them.
If the ratios are better in other disciplines, that's great. For what I heard in education research, the ratios are about the same: at some point, that depository had reviewed ~300 papers, and found only 6 of them to be usable.